Rangers are 22 points clear of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership after a 2-1 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie made it 15 league wins in a row for the Light Blues.
There was only one change for Rangers from last weekend’s Old Firm win over Celtic, Ianis Hagi replacing the injured Kemar Roofe in attack for Steven Gerrard’s side.
The Gers almost took an immediate lead when Ash Taylor’s mistake allowed Morelos in but the Colombian’s effort was well held by Joe Lewis.
Aberdeen had an early chance of their own in the opening minutes, Balogun completely misjudging the flight of the ball and letting Sam Cosgrove in at goal; Connor Goldson, however, done just enough to put the Dons star off, lunging to try clear the ball, as he fired into the side netting.
Both sides will feel like they should have done much better with their early opportunities to break the deadlock – but there were plenty more to come.
Ianis Hagi was next to try his luck in a busy opening ten minutes, picking the ball up a long way from goal and then driving forward ten yards before unleashing a wicked effort that didn’t quite dip enough to sneak under the bar.
It was end-to-end stuff as both sides looked to get forward and score the opener but neither keeper was particularly busy, despite the entertaining start to the game.
Rangers started to take control of the game and were getting particular joy down the right, Kent and Hagi both finding gaps in the Dons’ defence, Joe Lewis then denying with an incredible save moments after Jonny Hayes’ goal-line block to keep Kent’s effort out.
Morelos then burst into life after a lovely give-and-go with Aribo before being taken out by Hedges to reduce Aberdeen to ten men – Tavernier stepping up but putting the ball wide of Lewis’ left-hand post with the keeper away in the other direction.
PENALTY TO RANGERS! pic.twitter.com/aHnZQONt1U
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) January 10, 2021
John Beaton made the right decision to send the Aberdeen man off and, with the Dons down to ten, the momentum was very much with Rangers with over an hour still to play.
Five minutes later, it ws 1-0 and Morelos made it five goals against Aberdeen since arriving in Scotland as he rifled the ball home to finish off an excellent bit of play by the Light Blues.
The Colombian had been arguably Rangers’ biggest threat before scoring and deserved his goal for a hard-working performance as El Bufalo looked like he was back to his free-scoring best.
Morelos started with his back to goal, turning fantastically and firing beyond Lewis to give the Gers the lead and set them on their way to a 15th consecutive league win.
Aberdeen were lucky not to be reduced to nine men shortly before the break when Curtis Main launched into a brutal challenge on Borna Barisic, somehow only picking up a booking when it really should have been red.
Manager Derek McInnes must not have been happy with the striker, hauling him off just minutes later and not even acknowledging the striker as he made his way off the pitch.
With the clock ticking down the half time, Rangers were very much in control but will have felt they should have had a bigger advantage on the scoresheet.
Gerrard will have been happy enough though when his players made their way off the pitch – and he will surely have sensed a chance to introduce the likes of Defoe, Itten or Barker to cause further problems for the Dons.
Rangers started the second-half on the front foot, working the ball to Kent, who lofted it to the back post, but the Dons defence cleared their lines – but the second goal wasn’t long in coming.
It was Morelos who, unsurprisingly, scored the goal that put the game beyond doubt, finishing off an excellent move involving Aribo and a lovely flick from Ryan Kent.
The Gers were well and truly in control of the game and it was only a matter of how many goals they were going to end up winning by as Aberdeen sat deep.
Lewis came to the Dons’ rescue again when Kent lashed an effort at goal, tipping the ball over the bar to deny the former Liverpool man a deserved goal after an impressive performance.
There was a rare bit of action for Allan McGregor to keep the Gers’ two-goal advantage in place, pulling off a fantatic save just moments after Lewis had denied Kent at the other end.
As the game entered the final 30 minutes, it seemed both sides were happy to get to the full time whistle but Rangers were still, albeit with much less intensity, trying to find a third.
With the calendar easing slightly for Gerrard’s side, the Ibrox boss resisted the temptation to turn to his subs and inject some new energy into the game – despite both sides starting to look a little bit leggy.
Out of nowhere, Aberdeen gave themselves a lifeline as Matty Kennedy netted from Hayes’ pass as they rushed forward on the break and gave the Gers a wake-up call with just over 20 minutes left.
Despite Aberdeen’s shock goal, Rangers re-asserted their control of the game, dominating possession in the final stages and stroking the ball around in midfield as the Dons chased shadows.
Gerrard finally turned to his subs with fewer than ten minutes left, bringing on Bongani Zungu for Ianis Hagi to shore up the midfield and see out the win.
The closing stages were nervier than Gerrard will have liked but the Light Blues will head back to Glasgow knowing the pressure on Celtic is increased even further ahead of their clash with Hibs tomorrow.
Aberdeen: Lewis, Considine, Hoban, Taylor, Hayes, Hedges, Campbell, Ferguson, Wright, Main, Cosgrove.
Subs: Woods, Logan, Ojo, Kennedy, Anderson, Vitranen, Edmondson, McGinn, Ngwenya.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic, Davis, Kamara, Aribo, Hagi, Kent, Morelos.
Subs: McLaughlin, Bassey, Helander, Patterson, Zungu, Barker, Stewart, Defoe, Itten.
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