Cup competitions are providing such embarrassment to Pedro Caixinha that it is looking increasingly doubtful he will be afforded the luxury of a full league season.
The League Cup could have offered salvation to a Rangers manager whose reputation was tarnished by a European exit at the hands of opposition from Luxembourg. Instead, Motherwell inflicted yet another bloody nose on the itinerant Portuguese coach in this semi-final. The listless nature of Rangers’ display at Hampden Park was even more damning than the result, with Caixinha now in a position from which it appears confidence in his ability may be irretrievable. Bluntly, it would take a miracle for him to turn this around.
Those Rangers fans who hung around until full-time did so only to make their displeasure perfectly plain. Caixinha has been in charge for 25 matches yet has not won three in a row. Despite being backed during the summer transfer window to the point where the Ibrox club should easily be the second force in Scotland, the manager is presiding over a team with no obvious style or identity. And yet, Rangers have been subject to recent and bemusing overpraise.
To his credit, Caixinha did not shirk from blame. “I need to assume all the responsibility for our team because of the way the team presented themselves,” he said. “They were a shade of the team they needed to be. The opponent played better, they played their own game and we allowed them to play their own game.
“Our performance was very poor, our performance was not anywhere near it needed to be. When that happens I need to assume full responsibility.”
Caixinha and his opposite number, Stephen Robinson, watched the closing stages of a tousy encounter from the main stand. If the referee, Steven McLean, had been as firm in dealing with players the match would not have ended at 11-a-side. McLean endured a horrendous afternoon but his inability to impose the laws of the game did not deny the better team victory.
Whereas natural focus falls on the glaring shortcomings at Rangers, it would be folly to ignore Motherwell. This is a club who refused to buckle under a £350,000 bid for their main striker, Louis Moult, in August. Moult dismantled Aberdeen in the quarter-final and scored both goals against Rangers, thereby fully justifying a smart business decision. Motherwell’s cup run and a meeting with Celtic in the final will earn them around three times the fee offered for Moult.
Rangers had arguably been the better team in the opening 45 minutes but Motherwell wasted the finest chance to edge ahead. Ryan Jack, on the Rangers goalline, blocked a net-bound Cédric Kipré shot.
The opening goal owed everything to Rangers’ failure to defend an excellent Chris Cadden corner. Peter Hartley hit the bar with a header, with Moult reacting quickest to nod home.
Both managers were subsequently sent from their technical areas with the anger of Caixinha understandable after Ryan Bowman, already on a booking, cracked the nose of Fábio Cardoso with an elbow. Cardoso had to be substituted. Later in the game, McLean ignored offences from Bruno Alves and Moult that were both worthy of a red card.
By the time that clash occurred, Motherwell had an unassailable lead. Moult latched on to a Charles Dunne clearance and the 25-year-old provided a wonderful lob over the stranded Jak Alnwick. The most striking thing thereafter was Rangers’ inability to summon any kind of proper response; Trevor Carson in the Motherwell goal had just one, relatively comfortable, save to make.
“We knew we were fitter and stronger than them,” said Robinson. This proved a final blow for Caixinha on an afternoon in which Rangers flailed around in the dark.