Glasgow (AFP) – Rangers shrugged off the loss of Leon Balogun to a first-half red card to close the gap on Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a 3-1 win at Motherwell.
Liam Kelly’s own goal put the visitors in front at Fir Park before Balogun lunged into a challenge on Dean Cornelius and was shown a straight red card.
Ross Tierney headed home an equaliser before half-time to leave Rangers’ title hopes hanging by a thread.
But the 10-men were far the better side after the break as Scott Wright restored their lead before James Tavernier’s penalty secured the three points.
Victory was all the more impressive as Giovanni Van Bronckhorst made eight changes to the side that beat Celtic to reach the Scottish Cup final last weekend with one eye on Thursday’s Europa League semi-final trip to Leipzig.
“The red card changed the momentum for us, we had to adjust our game plan but I think it worked out well, especially when we have a lot of speed up front,” said Van Bronckhorst.
“I am really proud of our players because we had to dig deep but at the end we were really happy with the win.”
Wright was one of those handed a start with Ryan Kent and Joe Aribo rested.
The former Aberdeen winger thought he had scored the opener, but the ball had already crossed the line from Kelly’s weak attempt to save Connor Goldson’s header before Wright made contact.
Balogun’s lunge then added drama to what should have been a comfortable afternoon for Rangers.
Tierney headed home in a crowded box from Jake Carroll’s cross 10 minutes before half-time.
But Motherwell failed to build on that momentum and were caught cold at the start of the second period.
Wright drilled into the far corner from Fashion Sakala’s pass before Tavernier coolly slotted home from the spot after Sakala had been tripped in the area.
Celtic can restore their six-point cushion at the top on Sunday when they visit Ross County.
Victory for the Hoops would give them the chance to virtually seal the title when they host Rangers at Celtic Park next weekend.
In a battle between the bottom two, Dundee were held 1-1 by St. Johnstone to remain rooted to the foot of the table.
Jordan Marshall put Dundee in front, but Shaun Rooney’s equaliser maintained the Saints’ five-point advantage in the relegation battle.
St Johnstone could still avoid the relegation playoffs as they are now just five points behind Aberdeen and St Mirren.
The Dons were beaten 2-1 at home by Livingston, while managerless Hibernian earned a late 1-0 win at St Mirren.
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