Rangers 3-0 Motherwell: Ibrox side keep up run going into Old Firm derby28 December 2022
Revitalised Rangers maintained Michael Beale's 100% start going into the Old Firm derby against a Celtic team at "a higher level" by seeing off Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership.
Alfredo Morelos' opener wiped out the visitors' bright start before Connor Goldson's looping header made it two.
Rangers then twice had efforts cleared off the line before Malik Tillman made it three at a jubilant Ibrox.
The hosts stay nine points off Celtic as struggling Motherwell drop to 10th.
Steven Hammell's side had their moments at Ibrox, including having a goal disallowed when three down, but have now lost nine of their past 14 matches in all competitions, winning just two.
"I think at this moment in time they are playing at a higher level than us. I think everybody can see that," said Beale afterwards when asked if a gap exists between both Old Firm clubs.
"This time last year we were six points in front of them, so things can turn with time. With good recruitment, good training and a feel-good factor around the club, that's the aim. We need to go back to where we were and quickly.
"A derby is a great leveller."
All indicators pointed to a long night in Govan for a Motherwell side which gift-wrapped a point to 10-man Kilmarnock on Friday despite holding a two-goal lead.
Rangers are grinding out wins under Beale, something the Fir Park club haven't done at Ibrox in the league since 1997.
Despite that - and Kevin van Veen being on the bench after a sickness bug - Hammell's men started brightly, with Allan McGregor rocketing out his box to stifle a Connor Shields breakaway. A flurry of corners also offered early hope.
But Rangers did not need the encouragement which eventually left the door open for them to earn Beale his fourth win since replacing Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Borna Barisic was afforded acres of space to swing in a ball from the left on 13 minutes. As good as the delivery nwas, Ricki Lamie got caught under it and, with Liam Kelly still on his line, Morelos nodded in his fifth of the season from six yards.
A heavy touch on a drenched surface robbed Dean Cornelius of a decent shot at goal as Motherwell tried to steady the ship, as James Tavernier, Tillman and Morelos all threatened at the other end.
But with six minutes until the break, the visiting defence was breached once more. Again, it came from a Barisic ball, this time his looping cross finding the head of Goldson. The defender outjumped Lamie, and a combination of the two somehow skewed the ball over Kelly and it skidded in off the underside of the bar.
Alex Lowry and Morelos would both have efforts hacked off the line after the break before the latter fed Tillman to slash a shot across Kelly and into the far corner.
Substitute Van Veen did have the ball in the net as hope of a late comeback briefly flickered only for a VAR check, while teenage substitute Luca Ross was thwarted by a man almost twice his age as McGregor got down well.
Player of the match - Alfredo MorelosAre we witnessing rebirth of the Colombian striker? This was his second goal in four games under Michael Beale, and he also registered an assist
Mouth-watering derby appears on horizon - analysis
While Beale described his team as a work in progress pre-match, the man who once stood on the Ibrox touchline next to Steven Gerrard has stabilised the Rangers ship and garnered momentum going into Monday's meeting with Celtic.
You'd still fancy Ange Postecoglou's men as favourites - even with the game at Ibrox - but Rangers fans will now feel they've got a fighting chance of getting a positive result.
Against Motherwell, they still had moments of concern at the back and with the odd slack pass, but Barisic and Goldson provided a fairly solid base, while Morelos is starting to click once more.
For Motherwell, they desperately need a bit of R&R - results and reinforcements. New signing Shane Blaney will surely come straight in to face Livingston in the new year to shore up the defence, but with no word on Louis Moult's return, bolstering the attack will surely be a priority.
Hammell has been firefighting since coming in as boss at the start of the season with injuries hampering his efforts with a thin squad at his disposal, and he'll be hoping a couple of fresh faces can help alleviate the stress on his lot.
What they said
Motherwell manager Steven Hammell: "It was a tough game for us. We are putting on a couple of 16-year-olds who conducted themselves really well but that shows illustrates where we are at right now in terms of personnel.
"We started the game well and we were on the front foot. We got into some great areas but weren't clinical enough. I think that's pretty much the story of our season.
"The work ethic and application is never in question, but when we are in those moments and fine margins, we need to do better. The next game becomes even more important now. It's massive."
Rangers host Celtic in Beale's first Old Firm derby (12:30 GMT) on 2 January, while Motherwell travel to Livingston later than day (15:00).
Second Half ends, Rangers 3, Motherwell 0.
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