McGregor preserves Gers' unbeaten record
Allan McGregor came to the rescue of ten-man Rangers with a superb late penalty save to prevent the champions slumping to defeat against Motherwell. Madjid Bougherra was dismissed for two bookable offences after conceding the spot-kick, but McGregor ensured Rangers left Fir Park with a point when he blocked from Jim O'Brien.
However, his efforts were not enough to maintain Rangers' 100 per cent record in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League opener against Stuttgart. Rangers fans who made the trip to Fir Park were given the opportunity to see new signing Jerome Rothen in action for the first time when he made his debut for the Scottish champions from the start.
The winger, signed on loan from Paris Saint-Germain on transfer deadline day, was given the nod ahead of Steven Naismith, who made way despite his impressive efforts for Scotland against the Netherlands midweek. There was also a debutant in the Motherwell side, with Yassin Moutaouakil starting following his loan move from Charlton. John Sutton was back in the starting line-up, but Stephen Craigan was dropped to the bench.
Kenny Miller had squandered several glorious chances for Scotland on Wednesday night and he failed to find the back of the net again in the opening stages of this game, trying his luck with a shot from inside the box which was ushered past the upright by goalkeeper John Ruddy. Motherwell then had the opportunity to put Rangers under pressure with a free-kick that was delivered into the packed goalmouth by Ross Forbes. Sutton connected well enough, but headed just past the post.
At the other end, Miller's cross found Kris Boyd and he attempted to divert a low header into the path of the on-rushing Sasa Papac, but Ruddy was first to the ball to clear the danger. Motherwell then appealed for a penalty when Sutton claimed he was impeded in the box by Papac, but referee Dougie McDonald showed no interest.
Sutton missed out on the opportunity to open the scoring when Moutaouakil's cross from the right bounced off his chest and out of play, with Steven Hammell also loitering with intent at the far post. Rangers could have snatched the lead shortly before the break when a Steven Davis ball into the box intended for Boyd broke to Miller and he rifled just over the crossbar.
Bougherra then had his header from a Rothen free-kick blocked by the legs of Ruddy. McGregor was called into action early in the second half to block from Hammell as Motherwell pushed for the opener. Hammell then supplied the cross for Giles Coke to set up O'Brien for the shot, but he curled his effort narrowly over the crossbar.
With an hour gone, Rangers made a double switch as Miller and Rothen made way for the introduction of Nacho Novo and Naismith. Naismith was immediately involved in a goalmouth scrap as he and Davis both failed to stab the ball over the line after Ruddy had produced a decent block.
Novo and Naismith then combined well with a lovely one-two before Novo unleashed a ferocious shot from just inside the box that Ruddy did well to turn past the post. Novo was involved again when he drew the Motherwell goalkeeper wide before cutting back for Boyd in front of an open goal, but Steven Saunders was first to the ball to deny the striker a goal.
Instead it was Motherwell who could have snatched victory with five minutes to go when the referee pointed to the penalty spot after ruling that Bougherra had fouled substitute Lukas Jutkiewicz in the box. The Rangers defender picked up two yellow cards in quick succession after complaining about the decision, before O'Brien stepped up for the spot-kick. However, he was denied a last-gasp winner when McGregor guessed correctly to dive to his left and push the shot past the upright.