Malik Tillman scored a goal in his third-straight game in all competitions on Sunday. However, this one certainly takes the cake as the most bizarre, stirring up controversy as it happened.

In Rangers’s Scottish Cup tie against Partick Thistle, the two clubs were tied in the 71st minute, 1-1. Malik Tillman went down with an injury in a non-contact play. Fortunately, it was not serious for the player that missed out on the USMNT World Cup squad. As the American remained down after a challenge, Rangers kicked the ball out so the midfielder could receive attention. In a showing of good sportsmanship, Partick Thistle prepared to hoof the ball back to Rangers, as the hosts stopped play for Tillman.

However, Malik Tillman jumped on the clearing attempt and drove towards goal. He eventually beat Thistle goalkeeper Jamie Sneddon, giving Rangers the lead, 2-1.

Irate with Tillman’s actions, Partick Thistle players bumped the American to the ground. The melee led to a player on each team receiving a yellow card. However, Rangers manager Michael Beale instructed his players to let Partick Thistle score in a show of good sportsmanship on its own. From kickoff, Scott Tiffoney dribbled through a standing Rangers defense and passed the ball home. Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor was perhaps the biggest loser, forced into conceding.

Malik Tillman goal came out of confusion, says coach

Michael Beale defended his player despite the confusion and controversy. Acts of sportsmanship are nothing new. Throwing the ball back to the other team, big clearances when someone is injured or stopping an attack. However, Beale says his player was simply unaware of the greater situation.

“Malik gets injured and we play the ball out,” Beale said after the game. “Malik is down on the floor and he doesn’t see that we have played the ball out. So by the time Malik gets up, he sees they have a throw-in and he puts his hand up to the referee as if to say: ‘How have they got a throw?’ and then he presses as he has been taught. He is completely unaware of the situation.”

Rangers, second in the Scottish Premiership, was by far the favorite against Partick Thistle, the fifth-place team in the Scottish Championship.

“I will tell you why it was the right thing to do,” Beale added. “Malik Tillman is a fantastic young player and I don’t want that hanging around his head. He has never cheated anyone in his life and as a football club we have high standards.”

Two American goals

After the debacle that ended up with the game level at two, another American played the role of hero at Ibrox. James Sands, who also missed out on the World Cup 2022 squad, scored his first goal of the campaign in a massive moment. It was a bit of a fortunate break on a corner. However, Sands accepted the tally, and Rangers accepted the win.

While goals are rare for the American defender, they are not for Malik Tillman. His controversial goal in this game was his ninth in all competitions this season. However, it was his third-straight game with a goal.

Rangers advanced in the Scottish Cup to the quarterfinals looking to defend its title. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good news for Partick Thistle manager Ian McCall who was let go after the game.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Colorsport