It took 104 minutes – but Aberdeen recorded a thoroughly deserved victory after a magnificent performance, and a great tactical display, that left Rangers beaten, well before the final whistle sounded at Ibrox.
Barry Robson reverted to the starting XI that played so well against Eintracht Frankfurt, making three changes from the team that made it through to the semi-finals of the Viaplay Cup against Ross County on Wednesday night. Jack MacKenzie, Dante Polvara and Leighton Clarkson all started, Duk, Connor Barron and Jonny Hayes on the bench.
There was one change for Rangers after their 4-0 win over Livingston in their Viaplay Cup quarter-final on Wednesday, Cyriel Dessers replacing the injured Kemar Roofe.
Rangers dominated possession in the early exchanges and Dessers had a good opportunity in the third minute. Tavernier chipped the ball over the back line, Dessers running clear and latching onto it in the box, but he put his effort over the bar when he should have at least forced Kelle Roos into a save in his 50th game for the club – Leighton Clarkson also racked up the half century for the Dons in this game.
Lammers shot wide from distance a couple of minute later, then Sima was next to try his luck in the seventh minute, a diving header flashing wide of the post, Nicky Devlin putting him under pressure.
Jamie McGrath was in the wars on halfway after a dozen minutes, Lundstram’s arm catching him just under the eye as they challenged for a header, blood streaming from the cut. Lengthy remedial work went on before he was able to continue.
Roos had to produce a terrific reflex save to keep the score level on 20 minutes, Dessers getting a free header on the edge of the six yard box, Roos throwing himself to his left claw the ball away to safety. That was a rare opening for the home side in the first half an hour with the Dons keeping a good shape and keeping Rangers very much at arm’s length. That said, Cifuentes had a glorious opportunity after 35 minutes, running onto a Tavernier cross, but with the goal gaping, he failed to connect with a header from four yards out.
A dangerous free-kick through the box from Clarkson won a corner on 37 minutes, Goldson getting a vital touch on it to turn the ball behind, but from the flag kick, the Dons were ahead. Clarkson’s corner from the left sailed over everyone and there, running in at the back post, was Stefan Gartenmann, side footing the ball over the line from four yards out for his first Aberdeen goal.
The Dons were suddenly on top, another corner won on 42 minutes. It was half cleared to Graeme Shinnie, but he couldn’t repeat Wednesday’s heroics, this shot bouncing past the post. Jack MacKenzie was next to try his luck, pulling a shot wide five minutes into added time, after he had won a throw-in high up with a full blooded challenge on Goldson. Moments later, Rangers left the field to a half-time round of boos.
HALF-TIME: RANGERS 0 ABERDEEN 1
Rangers made two changes at the break, Wright and Barisic replacing Yilmaz and Jack. Tavernier was in the book in the half’s first real action, a late lunge on McGrath penalised in the 49th minute.
The home side began to pen the Dons in from there and in the 53rd minute, Barisic was found on the edge of the box, Roos down to his left to make a smart save as the effort came across the face of goal.
Wright followed Tavernier into the book on 55 minutes, a challenge from behind on MacKenzie followed into the whistler’s notebook.
The Dons were inches away from a second goal on 56 minutes. A corner was recycled back to Clarkson and his ball to the back post found Bojan Miovski, but his header from five yards out thumped against the post, as did the number nine, requiring treatment afterwards. It was a golden opportunity gone begging as the Ibrox crowd became increasingly restless.
The hosts got a free-kick on the right edge of the D on the hour, Tavernier flashing his effort over the bar and into the crowd as the Dons continued to frustrate Rangers and their support, as the rain poured down in Glasgow.
Shinnie, who was here, there and everywhere, won a corner on the right on 67 minutes, Sima heading it behind for another – and it was a flag kick that did the trick again. Rangers won the first header but the Dons kept things alive. Rube i had a shot, Jensen had a shot, MacKenzie had a shot, and as that bounced back into play off Butland, McGrath was there to lash the ball past him and in from around the penalty spot. The cheers from the Red Army could be heard for miles, as could the chorus of 50,000 boos.
Within two minutes of that, Rangers were down to ten men. Wright made a late lunge at Gartenmann on halfway and collected a second yellow card. Jensen was then booked for taking too long over the free-kick.
It was nearly three on 73 minutes, Clarkson’s free-kick skidding through the box, Dessers getting a touch on it to turn the ball behind as the Dons put him under pressure. Pressing high up won another corner on 74 minutes, Rube i winning the header from it, putting it straight at Butland.
But Rangers then pulled one back on 76 minutes, just as the game was looking all but over. Roos missed his punch from a cross hoisted to the back post, Cifuentes rolling the loose ball back across goal for a Sima tap-in.
Jonny Hayes and Duk became Aberdeen’s first changes three minutes later, replacing Miovski and Polvara. Duk quickly drew a booking for Goldson who took a swing at him on halfway as he tried to sprint away. In the aftermath, Lovelace replaced Dessers and Barron took over from Clarkson.
Instantly, it was 3-1, as MacKenzie denied once already by Butland, wasn’t going to let it happen again. Butland made a fine save from Hayes as the Dons flooded bodies into the box once again, but MacKenzie was following up, driving the ball low and hard, through Butland and into the net. A very lengthy VAR offside check followed, but eventually the goal was rightly given.
Rangers were straight back on the attack, Roos at full length to his left to paw away Cifuentes’ shot, MacKenzie tidying up. Shortly after, in a virtually empty Ibrox, up went the board to show eight minutes of added time. Angus MacDonald came on for Jensen who went down injured in the box in the fourth minute of that added time. A corner followed and at the near post, Sima missed a great chance from six yards out, further evidence of how the Dons had broken Rangers’ spirit.
Rangers continued to press though, confusion between MacDonald and Roos leading to a VAR penalty check that came to nothing worse than a corner that culminated in an Aberdeen free-kick. A 70 yard sprint from Duk in the 99th minute almost opened Rangers up again before the home side cleared their lines.
Another chance came Sima’s way at the near post two minutes later, the striker poking wide under pressure from Roos, who took a whack in the face as Sima missed the goal again. He needed help from the physio before carrying on, launching the goal kick upfield to the melodious sound of the final whistle.
5 minutes added at end 1st half
8+5 minutes added at end 2nd half