Rangers may have felt that Motherwell defender Dan Casey got off the hook against them on Saturday, but it was the Ibrox side who were handed a reprieve yesterday as Celtic failed to take advantage of their shock loss to the Steelmen.

For the Rangers captain James Tavernier though, no matter how much he might have agreed that the Motherwell defender got off lightly for his challenge on Ross McAusland, and no matter how relieved he may be that Hearts managed to also pull off a surprise defeat of Celtic, these fall into the category of things that Rangers cannot control.

What they are in charge of is how they react to their own setback, and how they iron out the deficiencies in their own performance that Motherwell exploited.

Defensively, especially, Rangers were poor, with neither of their centre-backs covering themselves in glory. John Souttar was far too eager in trying to cut out the pass that led to Motherwell’s opener, while Theo Bair dominated Connor Goldson all afternoon.

Tavernier himself looked a little suspect under the cross from Blair Spittal that Casey nodded home to ultimately give Motherwell the win too, rendering the penalty that the Rangers skipper tucked away on the hour all but meaningless.

It did move him ahead of John Greig as the club’s highest scoring defender mind you, on 122 goals and counting, but that was a footnote to the day when all that mattered was putting another three points on the board.

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They may have managed it too but for their wastefulness at the other end of the field. Motherwell defended well with their back five and goalkeeper Liam Kelly outstanding, but Rangers did squander chances.

Fabio Silva dollied a volley straight at Kelly, Goldson put a free header wide late on and Paul McGinn got a Silva header off the line among other close calls, and ultimately Tavernier was honest enough to put his hands up and admit his team hadn’t been good enough in the areas where it mattered.

What matters now is that they respond, with the challenge directly in front of them – with the greatest of respect to weekend victors Motherwell – looking a much sterner one on paper as Rangers visit Lisbon to take on Benfica on Europa League duty on Thursday night.

“We can never rely on any officials or any mistakes from the opposition, we have got to look at ourselves as a team first and foremost,” Tavernier said.

“We didn’t start well, we gave ourselves an uphill battle, but we knew we had plenty of time in the game.

“It was just about keeping probing and asking questions, and we created some good chances, but it’s the fine margins where you’ve got to stick the ball in the back of the net.

“We did that against Hearts, where we stuck the ball in the back of the net, at Killie we missed a couple of chances, but we got the goals. [On Saturday], it wasn’t there.

“It’s obviously disappointing, but we know we can bounce back from this, and we’ve got great characters in the dressing room that we know can bounce back.

“Any game is always ideal when it comes round the corner, you want to play in a game straight away to bounce back.

“It’s obviously away from the league, but whether it was the league or the Europa, we wouldn’t have minded whichever one.

“It’s just knowing it’s a game where we need to rectify it and get back to playing the way we know we can do.

“We’ve got great characters. It’s the second defeat under the manager. We’ve got nine games left in the league, so we’re obviously going to fight right until the end.

“That is the mentality we have, and we’re just going to keep pushing ourselves.

“We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves and get the maximum points that we can going forward, and that is what we will be trying to do.”

That will take a lifting of spirits in the dressing room, though Tavernier’s task in doing that may have been helped by Celtic’s defeat yesterday.

“We’re all human,” he said.

“After a draw or defeat, you’re always going to be down. It’s going to hurt. It hurt the fans, it hurt us, it hurt the manager and it’s everyone involved with Rangers that it hurts.

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“But it’s about how quickly you bounce back. We’ll look back on it and rectify it going forward.

“We’ve got to move forward and concentrate on the way we play.”

Despite being bested by Motherwell, the prospect of taking on Benfica will hold no fear for Tavernier and his teammates, particularly those who have been involved in the vanquishing of big-name foes in the Europa League in the past.

Benfica were among those skittled out of the competition by the Ibrox side over the last few years during the Covid-hit season of 2020/21, though Tavernier is expecting a tougher assignment at the Estadio de Luz with Benfica’s fanatical support in attendance this time around.

“It will be a different environment with the fans, it’s different with no fans, you obviously get an extra body on the pitch when you have your own fans,” he said.

“But we can only get the fans behind us if we put in a performance that makes them get behind us, and at the start of the game we didn’t give them that [at the weekend], and we gave ourselves an uphill battle.

“But we know what we need to do. We’ve got to keep pushing and keep pushing.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity going to their place and it will obviously be a good atmosphere.

“We are really looking forward to it, with the first game away and then coming back to Ibrox, so we always fancy our chances and we’ll just keep pushing.”