A few scares at the start gave way to plenty of possession and ultimately bloodshed as Rangers sliced and cut Motherwell to take a four point lead at the top of the Premiership with a 6-1 victory.
A Bevis Mugabi opener scared the visitors, but James Tavernier terrorized the Steelmen with a goal and an assist before the break while Fashion Sakala scored a brace.
A Halloween horror show for Motherwell was confirmed when Stephen O’Donnell received a second yellow card with 20 minutes left and a nice strike from Glen Kamara was followed by Sakala’s hat-trick goal.
With Celtic held by Livingston on Saturday, the reigning champions are strengthening their grip on first place, sending a warning to the rest of the Premiership in the process.
Steven Gerrard made four changes from the side that drew with Aberdeen, with Fashion Sakala replacing Kemar Roofe up front and Allan McGregor returning in goal.
Joe Aribo was guilty of missing a huge opportunity after five minutes, walking away from the back post with the goal gaping, but his blush was spared by the assistant referee’s flag.
Gerrard had spoken before Sakala’s presentation kicked off to disrupt Motherwell with his pace, and Stephen O’Donnell was booked early on for bringing the forward back.
It was the hosts who took the lead as the Rangers again conceded the opening goal.
A previously rock solid defense has been porous this season and it was a simple set piece that proved their loss here.
The kids of Elm Street can tell you about the dangers of falling asleep at crucial times, but it didn’t take Freddy Krueger to kill the Rangers around Motherwell’s Corner.
Sondre Johansen was left totally unmarked and although his down header was well saved by McGregor, the veteran couldn’t hold him back and Mugabi was on hand to shoot home from a tight angle.
Any expected assault took a long time to kick in, with a low shot from Aribo the only real notable save from Liam Kelly in the first half hour despite a lot of pressure from Rangers.
Indeed, Motherwell could have doubled his lead if Watt had connected more cleanly with a low ball from Jordan Roberts, rather than deviating wide under pressure from James Tavernier.
Morelos sought to take matters into his own hands with a powerful strike from a distance, but he was close enough to Kelly that Motherwell’s keeper could comfortably knock him down.
Something special was going to be needed and Tavernier, who was celebrating his 30th birthday, imagined it.
A deep cross from Bassey found the captain at the far post and he encountered a superb side kick volley that found the far corner.
Like Michael Myers, the right-back was rioting on Halloween and he twisted the knife minutes later.
This time Tavernier was the supplier as he had too much time to field a cross and duly picked Sakala.
The striker did meet him at close range to get home and reverse the game.
The visitors came out on the front foot in the second half, Morelos seeing a shot close to the blocked goal and Tavernier whipping dangerous ball after dangerous ball.
A previously roaring Fir Park had turned into a quiet place as local fans watched things unfold, with the drummer-dominated soundtrack at the Rangers’ end.
And it was the end of the game just after the hour mark when Sakala added his second of the game.
Using a bunk run from Bassey to buy himself space to cut inside, the Zambian striker unleashed a right-footed shot that cut Sean Goss and settled in the back of the net.
Motherwell boss Graham Alexander sent Kevin van Veen to try to save the day, but an early incident returned to haunt his side.
Bassey passed O’Donnell on the flank and the Scotland international was late with his challenge. After being warned for his foul on Sakala, there was only one result and the red card duly arrived.
The nightmare only got worse for Motherwell as Tavernier collected a second assist of the game.
A short corner routine saw the Englishman give the ball to Glen Kamara, whose hoarse shot from a distance took him to 4-1.
Gerrard took the opportunity to give some of his players a rest, as every pass was greeted by cheers from outside support.
A nice ball from Steven Davis deserved special treatment as the veteran picked Sakala with a nice soaked ball and the forward brought home his third.
It could have been six in the stoppage time, but Kelly made a superb save to deny Scott Wright.
The reprieve, however, did not last long as, from the resulting corner, Tavernier’s cross was directed to a substitute Kemar Roofe who was hit at close range.
A Halloween horror show for Motherwell and a Rangers performance to thrill the rest of the league.
3 talking points
There have been complaints about the lack of playing time for Nathan Patterson this season, but with his skipper in that kind of form, Steven Gerrard just can’t leave Tavernier out.
The right-back’s goal to open the scoring was a stunner as he found the far corner with a brilliantly controlled volley.
Tavernier put in the second and fourth, and could have secured more assists as he delivered from the right with consistent quality.
That’s three goals and seven assists in 10 games for the birthday boy, who continues to perform at the highest level.
Sakala may have pulled off the hat-trick, but Tavernier orchestrated the rout.
Hosts were good value for about 20 minutes here but got sorely lost.
Even before that brace before half-time, they left too much time for the Rangers to play, with Tony Watt being an isolated figure up front.
As they looked to come back in the second half, the passes were too often capricious, the movement was not intuitive.
Graham Alexander won’t have rated this as three points, but the Motherwell manager may well feel aggrieved by the way his team gave up on the initiative.
O’Donnell’s red card felt like it was coming as soon as he took that early booking, but the game was long over.
Declaration of Intent
Critics were not lacking for the Rangers after their draw with Aberdeen, and you would have been forgiven for forgetting that they entered the league top at the weekend.
Gerrard has been among those calling on his stars to do better, and there will certainly be plenty of analysis at Auchenhowie on the botched goal his team conceded.
The way the Rangers reacted was a true statement of intent, crushing Motherwell with arguably their best performance since last season.
With a four point lead at the top, if they can maintain that form, it will be a nightmare before Christmas for any potential title rivals.