Rangers followed up their impressive midweek with another well-deserved win over Aberdeen on Sunday, defeating the Dons 2-1. This was a match with lots of physical play, controversy and passion. Often, games can seem poor when teams are determined to win like that, but there was plenty to be entertained by.
Rangers started the game with only one change from midweek, Bates replacing the injured Alves. For Aberdeen, injury and suspension forced a few changes. Greg Stewart and Adam Rooney started the game, players who are both capable in the attacking sense. Defensively, Kari Arnason dropped out, and they looked to play more of a 4-4-2 this time around.
Rangers started with intent, winning a corner in the first minute. The near-post ball from Windass was almost flicked in to a dangerous area by Miller. The opening minutes were largely broken up by numerous fouls, as both sides looked to impose themselves on the game.
The first real moment of note came in the 6th minute when Josh Windass was sent through by a long ball from Wilson. As the defence chased back, Considine was able to apply some pressure, and it forced a heavy touch from the Rangers player. This meant his next touch, trying to go around the keeper, wasn’t very controlled, and the player tried to win a penalty through a dive. It was a clear attempt to con the ref, and he was rightly booked for it with no protest.
On 14 minutes, Rangers took the lead. Unsurprisingly, this was from a free kick, which were already numerous. Holt was fouled by Shinnie, only a minute or so after the Aberdeen player was booked. Declan John took the free kick, lofting it to the edge of the box. Danny Wilson managed to find some space, readjusted his position, and looped a great header into the far top corner. The accuracy and height on the effort left Joe Lewis with no chance. As much as the defending was poor, the header was a great finish, and credit should be given there.
The next chance fell to Josh Windass, after some good play by Pena. The Mexican found some space and ran at the Aberdeen defence. He was crowded out and lost the ball, but the inadvertent flick fell perfectly for Windass. His 30 yard shot was bound for the bottom corner, but Joe Lewis got a hand to it with an excellent save.
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Rangers were in control and playing some nice football. The movement of Miller and Windass was creating problems, and Pena was often finding space to play in. Jack and Holt were dominant in midfield, and the defence largely untroubled. Despite that, chances were often difficult to come by as the flow of the game was ruined by numerous fouls.
Aberdeen got their first real chance of the match a minute before halftime. Greg Stewart was fouled by Jason Holt on the Rangers left, and took the free kick himself. It was a great ball whipped to the front post, which Considine met just in front of Wilson. The header rattled the crossbar, and the ball was eventually cleared for Rangers to go in at halftime a goal ahead.
From the Aberdeen chance, it seemed that Danny Wilson took a head knock trying to win the ball. He was escorted off the pitch by the physio and doctor, and replaced by Cardoso during the break.
The second half started a lot like the first, with Rangers better on the ball and the game being physical. Joe Lewis yet again made a great save to keep Aberdeen in it, after an excellent through ball from Pena sent Miller clear for a left-foot shot.
Mere minutes later, the pattern of the game was completely changed as Ryan Jack received a red card. He went in hard to what would have been a 50/50 challenge, but the way Stevie May went in meant that Jack caught him badly on the follow through. The decision has caused a fair amount of debate, which in itself tells you that Jack was a little unlucky. It was easily the biggest cheer of the day from the Aberdeen fans as Jack left the pitch.
Rangers responded by replacing Pena with Candeias and changing to a 4-4-1. That proved to be a smart substitution, as Rangers continued to create chances and play well. After eight minutes of playing with a man short, Rangers extended their lead.
Good pressing by Candeias allowed Tavernier to win the ball in the Rangers half. Both players drove at the Aberdeen defence, with Tavernier beating 3 players before playing Candeias through wide. His early low cross was met by Josh Windass, who controlled a good finish into the back past to score his fourth goal in the last six games. Analysis of the goal shows two key elements; the run by Josh Windass was excellent, and showed real desire to get to the ball in front of Logan. Also, there was a smart piece of play by Kenny Miller which meant that Kenny McLean couldn’t track back, and that left Tavernier space to run into.
Unfortunately, Rangers couldn’t hold the two goal advantage for long. Tavernier conceded a free kick around 30 yards out, and Frank Ross curled in a great effort. The finish was akin to the goal James Maddison scored for Aberdeen against Rangers last season. This time, Foderingham got a hand to the shot, and will feel disappointed he couldn’t keep it out.
From there, the game became one where Rangers were looking to minimise the Aberdeen chances. Bates and Cardoso were defending well at centre half, and Josh Windass was running non-stop to try and offer an outlet. Aberdeen got a few corners and set pieces, but Foderingham dealt with everything well. The only real chance of note was a Greg Stewart effort which Cardoso blocked out for a corner, then celebrated like he’d scored a goal.
When you consider the number of important players injured or not playing for Rangers on Sunday, and that they had to play with 10 men for over 30 minutes, this was an excellent result. The players continued the level of desire from Wednesday, and whilst the football wasn’t as good, there were moments of great play. The away fans, and every Rangers fan watching, were ecstatic as the team took the full points in a double-header many felt they’d take nothing from.
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Foderingham, Tavernier, Bates, Wilson (Cardoso, 45), John, McCrorie, Jack, Holt, Pena (Candeias, 57) Windass (Herrera, 90+3), Miller.
SUBS NOT USED: Alnwick, Hodson, Morelos, Barjonas.
Lewis, Logan, Shinnie, Considine (Harvie, 81) O’Connor, McLean, Stewart, Rooney, Wright (Ross, 51) McKenna, May (Maynard, 61)
SUBS NOT USED: Rogers, Reynolds, Arnason, Ball..