2018-19 Betfred Cup Semi-Final – Aberdeen 1-0 Rangers

Final

The second semi-final took place at Hampden Park on the same afternoon. The winner would have the opportunity to play Celtic in the final, to compete for the first silverware of the season, after they dispatched Hearts in Edinburgh.

Three changes for the Dons for this semi-final, following their 2-1 loss to fellow semi-finalists Hearts at Tynecastle. Scott McKenna came back into defence with Niall McGinn and Scott Wright coming into midfield. They replaced Max Lowe, Sam Cosgrove and Dominic Ball as Aberdeen went 4-2-3-1.

One change for Rangers, enforced through Alfredo Morelos’ suspension and Kyle Lafferty’s ineligibility. Umar Sadiq started up front in a 4-3-3 formation. That was the only change after their frustrating 0-0 draw with Spartak Moscow at Ibrox in midweek.

Dead balls, dead game

An early set piece for Aberdeen saw two former Celtic players standing over it, in the shape of Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn. The latter would take, the Northern Irishman sending a dipping curling effort goalward. It was, however, met with a great stop from Allan McGregor.

Rangers’ first chance also came from a dead ball situation. James Tavernier clipped in for Sadiq. The young Nigerian, on loan from Roma, nodded over with Scott McKenna appealing for a foul against him.

First clear cut opportunity

A great chance came for Aberdeen inside a quarter of an hour when GMS, so often their architect, skipped away from a few blue shirts before pulling back to Scott Wright who shifted it on to Niall McGinn in a better position but the winger blazed over.

Ryan Jack was next to have a go for Rangers against his former club, but his long range effort didn’t trouble Joe Lewis in the Aberdeen goal whatsoever after Sadiq’s knock down, much to the amusement of those that used to cheer him on.

A real blow came for Aberdeen when Andy Considine went down injured following a clash of heads, he was replaced by Max Lowe resulting in 8 minutes being awarded for injury time at the end of the first half.

Suckers for set pieces

The major Ranger chances were coming from set pieces. Another Tavernier free kick was met by Connor Goldson, who nodded on in search of a teammate and after the ball broke to fellow centre half Joe Worrall, the defender blazed over.

Another poor first half in truth with Rangers perhaps shading it but the game remained goalless heading into the second 45.

Reckless Rangers missing chances

How Rangers didn’t take the lead at the beginning of the second half remains to be seen. James Tavernier had a pop at goal early on, Ejaria’s effort on the follow up was blocked and found Daniel Candeias. The Portuguese winger’s deep cross found his fellow wide man Ryan Kent who, after controlling, looked to centre for somebody to glance home but McKenna scrambled away.

Tavernier shot over from a free kick. It was a poor effort considering the captain’s usual quality from dead ball situations. With half an hour left, he tried to turn provider with his corner finding Lassana Coulibaly who from 10 yards out, struggled to get any conviction in the shot and it bounced wide and behind.

Smash ‘n’ grab

Aberdeen, having struggled to create anything of note, would win a corner following the team exchanging passes before GMS was released over the top. Ryan Jack would intercept before conceding the corner.

And it’s from the corner, ironically given all of Rangers’ set pieces, that Aberdeen would score. Speaking of irony, it was the son of a former Rangers player that would net the winner. Niall McGinn’s in-swinger met by Lewis Ferguson, son of Derek, who nodded past Allan McGregor inside the six-yard-box 11 minutes from time. A great corner met by a cushioned, controlled header from the teenager would have the Dons in front.

Rangers nearly responded through a header of their own. Ryan Kent crossed for James Tavernier. The full back couldn’t keep it down, though, and missed the target when Rangers needed him most.

Shay Logan would knock behind for Rangers to have one last chance to equalise but it’s one they didn’t take. Allan McGregor even came up as Rangers looked to send the match to extra time. The corner made it’s way out to Ryan Kent who played back out wide as Tavernier looked to send it into the box again. His cross was met by a Coulibaly header. Max Lowe then blocked the cross and Aberdeen held on to advance to the final.

Can the Dons go all the way?

The Dons will be looking to go one step better than the 2016-17 final, when they were beaten by current holders and their opponents, Celtic 3-0. They haven’t won this competition since 2014 after they beat Inverness on penalties in Derek McInnes’ first season in charge.

As for Rangers, the wait goes on. They have won this competition the most of any Scottish club (27) but not since 2011. Both clubs play on Halloween back in the league as Aberdeen host Hamilton and Rangers play Kilmarnock.

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