Motherwell stunned Rangers at Ibrox with a first win at Ibrox since 1997, taking a 3-1 lead into the second-leg at Fir Park on Sunday.
Ian Baraclough set his side out to near perfection and made one of Rangers’ greatest threats their own with two pacey wingers causing the Light Blues considerable damage.
A swing of confidence was also on show as well as bad habits dying hard with Rangers leaving themselves with a mountain to climb if they are to make a Scottish Premiership return on Sunday.
Ian Baraclough won the battle out wide
Although it was Lee Erwin that took advantage from a wide position for the first goal the Light Blues didn’t learn and gave away a free-kick in the same wide area for the second goal as Lee Wallace failed to shackle Lionel Ainsworth who added the third goal.
The first goal was crucial
After some early Rangers pressure Erwin scored via a deflection off of Darren McGregor making it the first time Rangers had gone behind in a play-off tie this season.
The Light Blues have struggled when going behind this season and conceding a second goal five minutes before the break really gave them a job to do although the problem that needed addressed in the wide areas was obvious.
The first goal depleted the confidence of the home side and fired up the Steelmen as the came took an unsurprising twist as Motherwell left with such a commanding lead.
McGregor's late headed goal gave Rangers a lifeline going into the second-leg with his last contribution of the tie with suspension keeping him out on Sunday.
Rangers reverted to their old ways after conceding
As soon as the first goal went in Rangers fans might have got the sense they had seen it all before.
The Gers dominated the opening exchanges but found themselves behind and had to find a way back into the game. They couldn't. Despite Ainsworth being the obvious threat they failed to shackle him and the lost passes from the blue shirts became more frequent towards the end of the first-half.
Conceding the second goal from a set-piece after being so organised against Hibernian was a surprise and it really tested the resolve of McCall’s side who failed to stand up to the pressure, showing hey still struggle to perform when going behind.
One minute into the second-half Rangers got caught on the counter-attack again showing they hadn’t learnt from the first-half. Stephen Pearson set Ainsworth away and he fired past Bell for a deserved goal after causing Rangers so many problems.
Motherwell found their confidence with the goal
The Steelmen came into this game low on confidence and a very poor away record plus an even worse record at Ibrox.
They started the first-half slowly and invited pressure from Rangers who caused them a few scares, the closest of which caused Long to save from Nicky Law after a mix up between Stephen McManus and Keith Lasley.
But the tide turned when the first goal went in and Motherwell started to play with more confidence, looking to exploit the wide areas, and did so for the second goal, which further improved their confidence.
Rangers had the opportunity to take advantage of Motherwell’s poor away form but instead slipped into their old routine and have left it all to do on Sunday afternoon.
Rangers’ play-off formula has been forced into a change
Losing at home in the play-offs will make Sunday’s all the harder, but to lose with such a margin will make it even more difficult.
The formula that brought Rangers this far was protecting a first-leg win but now they will be forced to go out and chase the game on Sunday.
This will allow Motherwell to operate on the counter-attack with Stuart McCall needing to rethink his system in order to prevent his team being hurt in the wide areas again as they go after the two goals they need to take the tie to extra-time.