SPL

Rangers title hopes damaged as Dan Casey goal gives Motherwell victory at Ibrox

By Sports Desk March 02, 2024

Dan Casey’s stunning second-half goal gave Motherwell a shock 2-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox and handed the initiative in the cinch Premiership title race back to Celtic.

Stuart Kettlewell’s side silenced most of Ibrox in the ninth minute with a goal from striker Theo Bair which left the Light Blues struggling to read an unexpected script.

Gers skipper James Tavernier scored from the spot on the hour after the VAR had intervened but Irish defender Casey restored the visitors’ lead with a close-range finish in the 74th minute for the first Well win in the league in Govan since 1997.

It was a first defeat in 12 games in all competitions for Philippe Clement’s side and although they remain two points clear of their Old Firm rival at the top of the table, Celtic get the chance to leapfrog them against Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday.

Clement’s side had fought back to beat Kilmarnock 2-1 at Rugby Park on Wednesday night, which kept them ahead of the Hoops and it was widely believed that three more points would be garnered against the Steelmen.

Ridvan Yilmaz, Nico Raskin, Dujon Sterling and Cyriel Dessers came back in to the team amid the usual rotation.

Motherwell, with defender Shane Blaney and on-loan Blackburn striker Jack Vale returning, arrived in eighth place fresh from a 3-1 win at bottom side Livingston.

The visitors had the first chance when defender Bevis Mugabi headed a Blair Spittal corner over the bar but they did not miss the second. Vale got past defender John Souttar and cut the ball back for Bair to steer the ball past goalkeeper Jack Butland and in off the post for his sixth goal in nine games.

Dessers headed a Yilmaz past the post and Well keeper Liam Kelly punched a dipping shot from Mohamed Diomande past the post for a corner before Kelly made an even better save from Yilmaz’s swerving shot from distance.

The traffic towards the Motherwell goal was busy but in the 35th minute Spittal had a decent effort saved by Butland, before winger Ross McCausland was replaced by Fabio Silva after failing to shake off the effects of a crunching Casey tackle.

Silva weakly knocked a long pass from Connor Goldson into the arms of a grateful Kelly and Rangers’ best chance of the first-half was gone.

Tom Lawrence replaced Raskin for the start of the second half and within two minutes Dessers had the ball in the Well net from a yard out but the flag was up for an infringement as a clutch of players contested a high ball.

Soon after Spittal’s flick hit the crossbar at the other end, the Govan side were level.

There was a long VAR check for a penalty when Motherwell right-back Stephen O’Donnell tackled Silva inside the box and when referee Alan Muir checked his pitchside monitor and pointed to the spot, Tavernier smashed the ball high past Kelly for his 21st goal of the season.

The home fans roared Rangers on for a winner and Sterling missed the target when set up by John Lundstram.

However, sprightly Motherwell retained more than a hint of danger.

Bair got past Goldson to spring a Motherwell break but hit his pass straight at Souttar, although Casey made no mistake when he headed in Spittal’s deep cross to the back post.

Rangers threw everything forward in the final stages.

Kelly made good saves from Lundstram and Yilmaz and Goldson twice missed the target with headers from six yards and Well defender Paul McGinn cleared off the line.

But Casey’s goal was a blow from which Rangers did not recover and they will need to dig deep when they play the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie against Benfica in Lisbon on Thursday night.

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