Rangers had reached the top of the Premiership table after beating Hearts 2-1 at Tynecastle, they took on an Aberdeen side defeated 1-0 at Hampden in the Betfred Cup final by their greatest rivals, Celtic.
Steven Gerrard made three changes. One enforced through Scott Arfield’s suspension with Ryan Jack starting against his former club. Jon Flanagan and Glenn Middleton replaced Andy Halliday and Eros Grezda respectively after the Light Blues’ victory in the capital.
Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen made just the one change, again enforced. Gary Mackay-Steven’s injury in the final meant that he was replaced in the starting 11 by 19 year-old Connor McLennan, who looked very decent indeed and unlucky to be on the losing side.
Captain on captain
The first chance came when James Tavernier fouled Graeme Shinnie, the Aberdeen skipper brought down by the Rangers one with Niall McGinn standing over the set piece as the Dons looked to take a shock early lead in this game.
They would do so too, after just seven minutes. A commotion in the Rangers box took place with Scott McKenna the first player to react, smashing a volley past Allan McGregor in front of the Rangers fans. The journey so far paying off for the travelling Aberdeen supporters.
Sam Cosgrove would be booked for a challenge on Gareth McAuley before Rangers would create the first major chance of their own. James Tavernier’s free kick nodded wide by Lassana Coulibaly, Rangers not making the most of their set piece in the same way Aberdeen did.
A James Tavernier corner was then headed wide for Alfredo Morelos, the Colombian searching for that record of scoring eight games in a row. A difficult chance for El Bufalo in fairness as Rangers were looking to get back on level terms.
Despite that, their only chances were really coming from dead ball situations, nothing major from open play. Coulibaly, again with a chance, would nod over from yet another James Tavernier delivery. Good connection this time but over Joe Lewis’ crossbar it went.
Dons down to ten
The game was already proving a feisty affair but would change following Sam Cosgrove’s dismissal. He can have no complaints about thefirst booking but his second appears to be a shocking decision from the officials, in a week of controversy in Scottish football. If anything, Connor Goldson kicked the underside of Cosgrove’s boot but Aberdeen were down to tenmen, still a long way to go.
Joe Lewis, instrumental in the Betfred Cup final with saving a penalty and keeping Celtic at bay, saved from Glenn Middleton before the resulting corner was nodded onto the top of the net by Alfredo Morelos, another tricky chance for the league’s top goalscorer.
The striker’s frustrations were evident following a booking as a result of a challenge with Graeme Shinnie. The first half came to a close with Rangers trailing despite creating a shedload of chances from dead balls, unable to put any away past Lewis as of yet.
In the second half, the Dons could have gone two to the good as Connor McLennan began proceedings with a powerful run. Patient build up saw Shinnie spray out to McGinn on the left, the former Celtic man feeding inside to fellow winger McLennan who flashed well wide.
Joe Lewis saved two deflected efforts back-to-back as Kyle Lafferty, off the bench, received from Ovie Ejaria and struck to the keeper’s right and the shot was spilled to Ryan Jack. Jack evaded a few former teammates before striking to the same side, another vital stop from the Aberdeen number one.
Morelos the menace
James Tavernier dinked in for Alfredo Morelos, the forward sending a wild effort high and wide into the stand. That seemed to be the opportunity to grab a goal in the eighth game in a row and draw Rangers level but the 22 year-old couldn’t convert.
It would appear to be the last chance for the former HJK Helsinki man as he would receive a second booking for a challenge on Graeme Shinnie. It could well have merited a straight red card, a daft challenge to make on a booking as he appeared to elbow the Aberdeen skipper in the face.
Scott the saviour
Scott McKenna, vital at both ends, secured the points for Aberdeen with a block from a Ryan Jack shot. From the resulting corner, he put enough pressure on Gareth McAuley for him to head straight at Lewis as Aberdeen held on for a massive three points and a great reaction from their devastating Betfred Cup final defeat to Celtic in Glasgow.
They next host St Johnstone at Pittodrie with Rangers travelling up to Dens Park to take on Dundee.