Rangers went some way to banishing memories of their 7-1 midweek defeat against Liverpool with a 2-1 away win at Motherwell on Sunday, their fourth Scottish Premiership victory in a row.
Second half goals from Malik Tillman and John Lundstram appeared to have handed Rangers a comfortable lead at Fir Park, but in the end the result proved to be trickier than expected, as Stuart McKinstry scored from a free-kick for Motherwell on 77 minutes.
Looking suddenly nervous, Rangers nonetheless survived a late Motherwell surge to go two points behind the league leaders, Celtic, in second place.
The Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst praised his players for brushing aside the psychological blow of their heavy defeat against Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday. “We had to bounce back from that midweek game,” he said. “We had a knock to our confidence on Wednesday; that’s why we had to perform well to win this one.
“We had control of the goal until we conceded the free-kick. After that we had to be mentally strong to make sure we got the three points – and we were.”
Van Bronckhorst had made three alterations to the Rangers team from Wednesday’s chastening defeat as Leon King, Tillman and Rabbi Matondo came in for Goldson, Ryan Jack and Fashion Sakala.
Motherwell also made three changes to the side that started the 1-0 defeat at Hibernian the previous weekend as McKinstry, Josh Morris and Ross Tierney replaced Blair Spittal, Connor Shields and Joseph Efford.
The visitors had the first opening of the game after three minutes when Ryan Kent jinked his way into the box from the left, but the winger was crowded out by the Motherwell defence before seeing his deflected shot gathered by goalkeeper Liam Kelly.
Tillman had a good opportunity for Rangers in the sixth minute when a Borna Barisic cross from the left broke to him 12 yards out, but the USA international shot high over the bar.
Motherwell’s first notable attempt came in the 33rd minute when former Rangers midfielder Sean Goss curled his free-kick into the defensive wall from just outside the box.
After an insipid first-half display, Rangers started the second on the front foot, with Antonio Colak sending a close-range header wide from a Barisic cross shortly after the restart.
Motherwell striker Kevin van Veen then tested Allan McGregor with a low shot from the angle of the box which the Rangers goalkeeper held at the second attempt.
Rangers took the lead in the 53rd minute when Tillman ran unchecked all the way from the halfway line before jinking into the box and clipping an angled shot beyond Kelly from six yards out, sparking joyous celebrations among the away supporters, who had been growing anxious with their team’s lack of creativity until that point.
The visitors then doubled their advantage in the 69th minute when Lundstram headed in Barisic’s corner. An object appeared to be thrown in the direction of Barisic as the visitors celebrated in front of the Motherwell fans.
The hosts got themselves back in the game in the 76th minute with McKinstry’s inswinging free-kick from wide on the left, which drifted over McGregor and in at the far post. But Rangers held on for a much-needed win.
Afterwards the Motherwell manager Steven Hammell said: “I don’t think we threatened them enough. We needed to be tactically better with the goals that we conceded.”