Motherwell 1 Rangers 2: Le Guen's French revolution off to winning start
Monday 31 July 2006
Allez les Gers. Un match. Deux buts. Trois points. Le règne de Paul Le Guen est arrivé. As the Rangers fans might say: "'kin' aye! Pure deid brulyunt."
The travelling support will not be quite so enthusiastic about some of their side's finishing yesterday. Three gilt-edged chances went begging at the feet of Thomas Buffel in the first half alone. But an early opener by Libor Sionko, one of four new signings starting, and a winner by Dado Prso after Phil O'Donnell had levelled, guaranteed a triumphant start for the French manager.
"I'm very happy, we did well," Le Guen said. "Maybe I'm a little disappointed we did not score more from all our chances. But only a little. The most important thing, with Celtic and Hearts both winning on Saturday, is the three points.
"We had a good balance in our play today, some long balls, some [short] passing, a good mix. I'm not worried about Buffel. I know he is able to score and he will."
This success makes Le Guen only the second Rangers manager in the last eight to win the opening League game of his tenure. The other was Walter Smith. Given the circumstances there were plenty of pluses. Victory was achieved without Kris Boyd, the Scottish Premier League's leading goalscorer last season, who was suspended, and without Barry Ferguson, Rangers' talismanic captain whose recovery from ankle surgery is expected to take five more weeks. Out, too, were another pair, Ian Murray and Chris Burke, both injured.
Instead, Le Guen began with Brahim Hemdani in what will probably be Ferguson's role in the two-man holding-distribution pairing he favours in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Prso up front alone. Charlie Adam - on loan last season at St Mirren, who won the First Division - did well in operating behind Prso alongside Buffel and Sionko. The new goalkeeper, Lionel Letizi, was solid, while Stevie Smith at left-back caught the eye time and again with his swashbuckling runs.
Motherwell were dogged, hoping to prove they will not wither now that Terry Butcher has emigrated to Australia. But it was Rangers' wastefulness that kept the score respectable. Adam carved the hosts open as early as the fourth minute before Buffel chipped wide. Buffel then allowed Bobby Donnelly to intercept instead of shooting early, and later, after evading five men, chipped over. In between Sionko, fed by Adam, made it 1-0, and could have made it two but poked over.
Adam hit the bar early in the second half before O'Donnell equalised. Prso headed for 2-1 from a corner, and should have got his second in the final minute but blazed over.
Goals: Sionko (8) 0-1; O'Donnell (52) 1-1; Prso (66) 1-2.
Motherwell (4-4-2): Smith; Quinn, Craigan, Donnelly, Paterson; McGarry (Clarkson, 78), Kerr, O'Donnell, Foran (Fitzpatrick, 78); McCormack (McDonald, 62), Hamilton. Substitutes not used: Meldrum (gk), McBride, Connelly, Soutar.
Rangers (4-2-3-1): Letizi; Hutton, Svensson, Rodriguez, Smith; Hemdani, Clement; Adam, Buffel (N'Diaye, 90), Sionko (Novo, 80); Prso. Substitutes not used: McGregor (gk), Rae, Fan-Fan, Namouchi, Ashikodi.
Referee: J Underhill.
Booked: Motherwell Kerr, Fitzpatrick. Rangers Prso.
Man of the match: S Smith.
Latest in Sport
Crystal Palace manager latest: Malky Mackay ruled out due to messy departure from previous club Cardiff
Sami Khedira to Arsenal: Midfield omitted from Real Madrid squad for Spanish Super Cup
David Gold furious after Carlton Cole parody account mocks up a picture of West Ham chairman as a suspect in the Madeleine McCann case
Manchester United's worst signings
Angel Di Maria latest: Manchester United target is Real Madrid's 'best player', says Diego Simeone
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 World peace? These are the only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict
- 4 Nicki Minaj finally releases predictable 'Anaconda' video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women