Manager Michael Beale is “seeing really good signs” from his Rangers side but was left “frustrated” by aspects of his team’s play as they fought back to win at Motherwell in a six-goal thriller.
The visitors trailed early to a Kevin van Veen strike, but James Tavernier’s free-kick levelled before the captain delivered for Fashion Sakala to net.
Motherwell responded through Bevis Mugabi, but two goals in six minutes from Todd Cantwell and Malik Tillman took the game away from the hosts, who had Callum Slattery dismissed.
“We recovered really well,” the Ibrox manager told BBC Sportsound. “I thought we were in control of the whole game, it was just whether we could up our quality.
“Again we’re frustrated there wasn’t a couple of more goals. I would like to see us score more. It’s becoming a little bit of a habit. This team are capable of scoring more goals.”
The win for Beale’s side temporality narrowed the gap on leaders Celtic to six points, but Ange Postecoglou’s men restored their nine-point advantage with victory at home to Hibernian later on Saturday.
Defeat for Motherwell, who remain ninth and are now winless in 55 top-flight games against Rangers, brings an end to Stuart Kettlewell’s four-game unbeaten start as manager.
A James McFadden goal in 2002 earned the Fir Park club their last Premiership victory in this fixture.
And it was current talisman Van Veen who had the home fans dreaming as the Dutchman tucked in Max Johnston’s cross then wheeled away in front of a travelling support who protested against the Ibrox board pre-match.
Rangers toiled in their pursuit of an equaliser as rigid Motherwell made life difficult in their 5-4-1 shape, but Slattery’s wild challenge on John Lundstram on the edge of the box resulted in Tavernier to bending a free-kick over the wall, beating Liam Kelly far too easily.
Tavernier then turned provider a minute after the break for Sakala to head home – the Zambian’s sixth goal in six games against Motherwell.
From nowhere, Kettlewell’s side drew level when Rangers failed to clear their lines, allowing Mugabi to prod the ball in on the slide.
But Beale’s men had their lead back four minutes later when Cantwell smashed in from close range – his first goal for his new club – before substitute Tillman drilled a quickfire fourth with a fine strike from the edge of the area.
Motherwell were reduced to 10 men for the final 14 minutes when Slattery was shown a second yellow for a flailing arm on Cantwell, but the hosts were spared a heavier defeat as Rangers passed up further chances to add gloss to the win.
Player of the match – Todd Cantwell
Rangers respond after making life difficult again – analysis
Beale will leave Fir Park with positives as his side continue to rebuild momentum on the pitch after last month’s Viaplay Cup final disappointment.
The Rangers boss has won all his first eight away Premiership games, becoming the first manager to do so in over 12 years, but he will be striving for more from his players after another performance which fluctuated throughout the 90 minutes.
The visitors struggled to break down their hosts during the first period, with Tavernier’s 23rd-minute equaliser coming from their first shot on target.
The Ibrox side’s character to respond has to be lauded, but they have made games unnecessarily difficult for themselves by losing the first goal on too many occasions.
Rangers’ bluntness in the first half was partly down to Motherwell’s resolute shape, but perhaps if Kettlewell’s men were more adventurous they could have built on their goal advantage.
The Fir Park boss’ flexibility in how he has approached each of his five games in charge must be commended, though. Despite defeat, Motherwell fans will not have lost any hope in their side’s survival bid.
What did they say?
Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell: “First and foremost, I’m pleased with the players. We never want to be glorious losers. We showed good discipline. But second half it started to open up slightly.
“We need some clarity [on Rangers’ third goal]. There’s a big call made. There seems to be a lot of confusion about how that decision comes about. I’ll stand corrected if I’m wrong but from the pictures I’ve seen [Fashion] Sakala looks offside.”
Rangers manager Michael Beale: “I understand [the fans’ protests]. It’s their life. Their voicing their frustration. I’d just like them to support the team, they team is doing well.
“It’s not easy to play in that environment when that’s in the air. I’d like them to show a little bit of trust if they can because I think there are good days ahead.”
After the international break, both sides return to Premiership action on Saturday, 1 April as Motherwell go to Hibernian, while Rangers host Dundee United (both 15:00 BST).
16McGinnSubstituted forMugabiat 53′minutes
52CaseyBooked at 20mins
8SlatteryBooked at 76mins
27GossSubstituted forTierneyat 71′minutes
18CorneliusSubstituted forMandronat 71′minutes
9van VeenSubstituted forBlaneyat 84′minutes
3YilmazSubstituted forArfieldat 71′minutes
13CantwellSubstituted forKamaraat 78′minutes
4LundstramSubstituted forSouttarat 78′minutes
8JackBooked at 45mins
9ColakSubstituted forMorelosat 65′minutes
30SakalaSubstituted forTillmanat 65′minutes
Match ends, Motherwell 2, Rangers 4.
Second Half ends, Motherwell 2, Rangers 4.
Attempt missed. James Tavernier (Rangers) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Malik Tillman.
Attempt missed. Ryan Kent (Rangers) right footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses the top right corner. Assisted by Glen Kamara.
Attempt missed. James Tavernier (Rangers) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses the top left corner. Assisted by Malik Tillman.
Attempt blocked. Scott Arfield (Rangers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Malik Tillman.
Attempt blocked. Ryan Jack (Rangers) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Ryan Kent.
Attempt missed. Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses the top left corner. Assisted by Ryan Kent with a cross.
Attempt missed. Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) header from very close range misses to the left following a corner.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Bevis Mugabi.
Attempt blocked. Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by John Souttar.
Substitution, Motherwell. Shane Blaney replaces Kevin van Veen.
Attempt missed. Scott Arfield (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Ryan Jack.
Attempt missed. James Tavernier (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high from a direct free kick.
Ryan Kent (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Blair Spittal (Motherwell).
Substitution, Rangers. John Souttar replaces John Lundstram.