Earning a place in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Communities League Cup was just about the least of it for Rangers by the end of a night of unbridled gloating and point scoring at Ibrox. This wasn't just beating Motherwell: they embraced it as a defeat of the entire Scottish Premier League.
Motherwell might not be the best team in the top flight but they are currently at the top of it, and Rangers provided a reminder of the old order by cutting them down at Ibrox. Even now, as a third division club with players only a shadow of the ones who used to wear blue, they are still a force to be reckoned with.
All but the 1000 dispirited Motherwell fans in a the 29,413 crowd made a racket from start to finish, never more lustily than when heartily abusing the SPL at kick-off and after the decisive second-half goals from Lee McCulloch and Dean Shiels. This was Rangers hammering home the message that the SPL may have turned up its nose and denied them membership at that vote back in July, but they would be made to pay for it.
Few inside the ground missed the fact the attendance was bigger than the combined total of all six ties played on Tuesday night, including Celtic's. They liked that, too.
Rangers willed themselves to victory with a rousing second-half display and it simply broke Motherwell. It is still 15-and-a-half years since the Lanarkshire side won at Ibrox and they have never had a better chance than this. The task was well beyond them. They have now played 39 consecutive games against Rangers without a win, a pathetic sequence which seemed to come crashing into their minds as soon as they conceded. They had to retreat from Ibrox last night knowing their team is good enough to beat this Rangers one, with its new foreign imports and youths, but wasn't remotely up to the job.
The game was Rangers' hardest of the season so far, and by far their happiest and most rewarding. If any confirmation of the severe deterioration in their squad was required then, the first half of this compelling night provided it. Motherwell didn't play well themselves but in the first half their tempo and technique was the best that Rangers have faced and forced them into countless errors.
They underhit passes and overhit them, they were caught in possession, overran the ball or failed to anticipate what a team-mate would do. Easily the most impressive aspect of their play was the work-rate and energy they showed when relentlessly harrying and frustrating Motherwell. That kept them in contention until half-time, after which they were the only team which showed character, fight, and penetration.
The visitors created far too little. Their best chance came when a Rangers attack ended in them conceding a free-kick. Motherwell took it quickly and raced it forward to Nicky Law, who suddenly had a free run from the half-way line. It was a straight sprint between him and Neil Alexander and the Rangers goalkeeper's reactions and pace got him there first to thump the ball into the stands. It was a poor return from the Clydesdale Bank Premier League leaders from a first half where they looked the better side, but not by much. Michael Higdon has been prolific lately but was as anonymous as all the others in claret and amber.
Rangers started with one out-and-out striker and lost him after just 20 minutes. Francisco Sandaza and Shaun Hutchinson cracked heads when going for a high ball and both crumpled to the turf. Sandaza had to go off and McCulloch took over up front. Hutchinson spent the rest of the half requiring periodic attention to the blood pouring from a cut, so much of it that he went through three shirts during the game.
Rangers had barely threatened Darren Randolph's goal, their moves tending to peter out in the final third, but four minutes into the second half the tie turned. Fraser Aird, the young whippet of a left winger, took a short corner to Shiels. His delivery perfectly picked out McCulloch and the captain planted a header off the post and into the net.
Ibrox erupted. Suddenly it was a different night. Aird broke clear and fired a shot across goal and narrowly wide. Then Motherwell switched off at a Rangers attack and allowed the ball to drift across their box to Anestis Argyriou. The Greek's overall display was poor but this time he swept over a cross which Shiels met with a hooked volley past Randolph. Motherwell's heads sunk into their chests. Aird dribbled through again and was denied only by Randolph's fine save.
Hateley's curling free- kick was heading in until Alexander's excellent save. Otherwise Motherwell had more than half an hour to stage a fightback but never came close. They could point to the fact McCulloch was fortunate not to be sent-off for an elbow on Adam Cummins, but it's doubtful if even that would have made a difference. They melted away with Ibrox laughter ringing in their ears.
Contextual targeting label: