Rangers 4-0 Aberdeen: Steven Gerrard’s men gain 11 point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership

Rangers 4-0 Aberdeen: Steven Gerrard’s men gain 11 point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership

This season, Rangers have a tight enough grip of things to properly turn the screw.

It’s an important difference. One that may even prove decisive in the fullness of the title race. Time will tell on that front. For now, Steven Gerrard can draw satisfaction from how his side continue to pile pressure onto Celtic’s shoulders.

Saturday’s error by the champions at Easter Road made this an opportunity for Rangers. It was ruthlessly grasped. An Aberdeen line-up eroded by injuries and coronavirus complications was briskly dismissed in another exhibition of the belief that has slowly been building at Ibrox.

In Gerrard’s previous two seasons, this kind of situation might have been a stage for one of those self-defeating slips that previously served to unravel their championship challenges. Rangers look a different proposition these days. Now 11 points clear of Celtic, having played two games more, they have taken control of their ambitions.

Rangers hammered Derek McInnes's Aberdeen 4-0 in the Scottish Premier League

Rangers hammered Derek McInnes’s Aberdeen 4-0 in the Scottish Premier League

The devastating result has given Steven Gerrard's side an 11 point lead at the top of the table

The devastating result has given Steven Gerrard’s side an 11 point lead at the top of the table

Gerrard could only be pleased by how the goals were again spread. A slight deflection couldn’t diminish the excellence of Ryan Kent’s opening strike, his first in ten games. There was also plentiful quality about how Kemar Roofe doubled the lead prior to half-time. A more sizeable diversion off Shay Logan helped Scott Arfield make it 3-0 before James Tavernier converted a penalty to raise his personal tally for the campaign to 13. They could easily have netted more.

Rangers weren’t perfect defensively but another clean sheet was accrued. That’s 13 from 15 Premiership games. Galatasaray remain the only visitors to score at Ibrox this term.

Aberdeen could have nicked one on the break, but there was too often a passivity about their efforts. Not all of that could be explained by depleted personnel. It perhaps said much that Andy Considine was sole booking – for conceding the penalty – in a fixture normally famed for its ferocity.

MATCH FACTS 

Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Balogun, Goldson, Barisic, Jack, Aribo, Arfield, Kent, Roofe, Morelos.

Subs: McLaughlin, Bassey, Helander, Hagi, Davis, Kamara, Barker, Defoe, Itten.

Aberdeen: Lewis, Logan, Hoban, Considine, Taylor, Leigh, Ojo, Kennedy, Hedges, Edmundson, Cosgrove.

Subs: Woods, Devlin, Main, Hernandez, Campell, Gallagher, Ngwenya, Ramsay, Duncan.

 

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Derek McInnes’ men retain third spot and will have many better days than this in the weeks to come. For Gerrard, the obvious hope is that the new normal of his team’s consistency is something very much here to stay.

The Ibrox manager’s intentions were laid out clearly in his team selection. A front three of Roofe, Alfredo Morelos and Kent were supported by a midfield containing both Joe Aribo and Arfield. Attack, attack, and then attack again.

It was a policy that swiftly bore dividends. Kent’s opener was a work of individual brilliance but he should have scored just as the clock ticked into the fourth minute.

Fed by Tavernier, so often a thorn in Aberdeen’s side, the £7million man was in space centrally to strike from inside the area. He did so straight at Joe Lewis, however, and the goalkeeper was able to block behind for a corner.

When Aribo was then squeezed out after some nimble footwork, there was a sense of Rangers cranking it up. Reward arrived on 15 minutes.

A period of calm possession-building was interrupted only briefly by an Aberdeen interception. Arfield won it back and fed Kent. He did the rest.

Nutmegging Funso Ojo to glide forward through midfield, Kent unleashed a glorious, curling shot from distance that took a nick off the shoulder of Tommie Hoban and smacked into the net via Lewis’ right-hand post. The earlier lapse was instantly forgotten as Gerrard celebrated a superb breakthrough.

A chance to quickly double the advantage should have followed from the penalty spot after Ojo bundled over Roofe. Referee Nick Walsh kept his whistle silent, much to the disgust of the ex-Leeds United man.

Roofe soothed his mood by claiming an excellent goal of his own on 29 minutes. Latching onto Connor Goldson’s clipped pass over the top, he showed lovely control to evade challenges in a dance across the penalty area. An eventual left-foot shot through a crowd of bodies had too much power for Lewis despite the goalkeeper getting a hand to it.

The timing was brutal for Aberdeen. Conceding just as they seemed to be getting a foothold in the game could only have disheartened their makeshift line-up.

For McInnes, injuries to Dylan McGeough, Niall McGinn, Marley Watkins and Jonny Hayes had been a bad enough starting point. Ross McCrorie was already ineligible through the terms of his initial loan from Rangers before he then became one of three players to test positive for coronavirus following Scotland Under-21 duty.

The identification of Lewis Ferguson and Connor McLennan as ‘close contacts’ removed another two players from McInnes’ plans. Little wonder the Pittodrie boss was so critical of how the SFA had handled the affair.

Rangers' goals came from Ryan Kent (above), Kemar Roofe, Scott Arfield and James Tavernier

Rangers’ goals came from Ryan Kent (above), Kemar Roofe, Scott Arfield and James Tavernier

Tavernier's converted penalty finished off the game after Andrew Considine was shown yellow

 Tavernier’s converted penalty finished off the game after Andrew Considine was shown yellow

An absence of central midfield options helped prompt a 4-4-2 shape to his side. They first offered a threat on 23 minutes, Ryan Hedges surging forward to slip in Sam Cosgrove for a near-post effort palmed behind by Allan McGregor. Then another sharp break led to Hedges going through for a drive McGregor pushed over.

Aberdeen thought they had gone three down when Arfield tapped in after Aribo’s deflection strike. The fact the deflection came off Roofe in an offside position meant the visitors were reprieved by a flag.

Goldson blocked Hedges before the break as they sought to rally, but another Rangers goal always seemed more likely. It duly arrived four minutes after the restart.

Arfield had already been blocked by Considine as the host maintained pressure by picking off an Aberdeen throw. Kent fed Arfield and his strike took an almighty deflection off Logan’s backside to beat Lewis.

Another entry to the scoresheet followed after another four minutes. Considine wrapped his arm around the neck of Leon Balogun with Walsh awarding the spot-kick. Tavernier maintained his faultless record this season by confidently sweeping home.

All of this was achieved without much in the way of input from Morelos. When he was replaced by Jermain Defoe on 66 minutes, he threw his gloves to the ground inside the technical area.

Tavernier, Ianis Hagi and Cedric Itten – the latter two substitutes – all came close to adding a fifth but Rangers could hardly gripe about the outcome. It has been another good weekend for Gerrard and his players.

Gerrard hopes that his team’s new found consistency is something very much here to stay

Gerrard hopes that his team’s new found consistency is something very much here to stay

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