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Aberdeen 1 - 3 Rangers

HT Score: Aberdeen 1 - 2 Rangers

Aberdeen scorers: Clark 33.
Rangers scorers: Ferguson 10, Prso 43, Prso 59

01/05/2005 | KO: 14:00

Dons get stuck in mud as Gers collect the points

Aberdeen will have to go to Celtic Park next week and win if they are to keep their European dream alive. The Dons were stuck in the mud this afternoon as Rangers eased to victory after picking up a couple of soft goals in the first half. Clark had popped up between strikes to keep Aberdeen in it but a third goal after the break sealed the win for the visitors and kept Aberdeen five points adrift of Hibs and that European spot.

Aberdeen kicked off in a cauldron of noise and within a minute Hugh Dallas was having words with Diamond as Prso. A free kick in the 3rd minute was over hit by Heikkinen as both sides looked to settle. Ferguson tested Esson from distance a minute later but the keeper made a comfortable catch. Severin then went close in the fifth minute with a low strike from distance that skidded inches wide of the target. Seconds later Heikkinen drilled a Ricksen clearance wide as the match was played at break neck speed.

A mistake from Byrne then cost the Dons dearly in the 10th minute as Prso broke on the right and found Barry Ferguson on the edge of the boss. The Rangers midfielder swept the ball past Esson to hand the visitors the lead. Two minutes later another slip from Byrne gave Rangers their first corner of the match but an infringement brought that attack to an end. The surface was proving to be difficult but Aberdeen went close in the 17th minute when Muirhead was found with a cross-field pass and his cross found Diamond whose effort was blocked twelve yards out.

The goal seemed to have knocked the early zest out of the Dons but Muirhead continued to give the Rangers defence a torrid time. Unfortunately the pitch was sodden and proving difficult to judge. Rangers were then awarded the softest free kick of the season in the 26th minute on the edge of the box. Esson pulled off a magnificent fingertip save to deny Ferguson a second then a minute later Anderson made a timely tackle inside the box to deny Rangers again. The Dons appeared to be struggling to keep their footing and Ricksen went close again in the 29th minute as the visitors started to take control.

Mackie had a great chance on the half hour mark when Ross slipped allowing Mackie to break on the right. The striker should have went for goal but tried to cut it back allowing Andrews to intercept. Aberdeen did level three minutes later as Clark collected a loose ball about 40 yards out, stepped inside Ferguson and hit a fierce shot that may have taken a deflection past Waterreus. Diamond collected the first yellow of the afternoon for a trip on serial fouler Dado Prso. Aberdeen broke quickly from the resultant free kick and Mackie should have released Muirhead wide on the left but he delayed and lost possession.

Seconds later Severin had another shot at goal that was well gathered by Waterreus. Rangers regained the lead two minutes before the break and once again the goal came from the right as Novo skipped past Byrne and found Prso in the centre. He casually backed heel the ball past Esson to make it 2-1. Aberdeen had a chance to level a minute later when Andrews slipped and the ball fell to Muirhead. Instead of shooting he tried to turn the ball back across goal to Whelan but it fell behind the striker and was cleared.

Michael Hart replaced Byrne at the interval and McNaughton moved to left back. Aberdeen carved out a half chance in the 48th minute but Muirhead's effort was blocked on the edge of the box. Aberdeen were passing the ball about well at this stage and taking the game to Rangers winning a corner in the 52nd minute. Muirhead delivered a great cross but the header was missed before the ball was swept clear. Another cross two minutes later fell behind Whelan and was once again scrambled clear. At the other end Heikkinen had to stretch his neck muscles to clear before Novo fired straight at Esson despite looking a yard offside.

Rangers grabbed a third in the 59th minute when Andrews won Ricksen's corner in the air and Prso was given too much space to turn and fire pass Esson from three yards. Two minutes later Esson prevented a fourth when he sprinted from his box to tackle Prso. In the 63rd minute Blaha replaced Whelan and seconds later Esson made another terrific save as Rangers went for the kill. The third goal had appeared to knock the stuffing out of the Dons as Europe began to look a forlorn hope. In the 71st minute Gary Dempsey made his Dons debut when he replaced Scott Muirhead.

Aberdeen tried to up the tempo in the last fifteen minutes but they were limited to half chances as the crisp passing and control deserted them and was replaced by a catalogue of errors. Severin collected the second yellow card of the match in the 85th minute for a challenge on Novo then in the final minute Esson pulled off another magnificent save from substitute Arveladze. In injury time Nacho Novo committed by far the worse foul of the game with an assault on Chris Clark. Incredibly referee Dallas took no action then seconds before the whistle Rangers hit the post before Hart cleared.

Aberdeen Teamsheet
Esson, Byrne (Hart 46), Diamond, Anderson, McNaughton, Severin, Muirhead (Dempsey 71), Clark, Heikkinen, Mackie, Whelan (Blaha 63).

Unused Subs: Winter, Considine, Stewart, Preece.

Bookings:  Diamond (38),  Severin (85).
Rangers Teamsheet
Waterreus, Ricksen, Buffel, Andrews, Ferguson, Prso (Thomson 89), Novo, Rae, Ross, Kyrgiakos, Lovenkrands (Arveladze  69)
Attendance: 17,198
Venue: Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen
Referee: Hugh Dallas, Motherwell
Today's Match Programme.
Anderson and Severin keep a close eye on Prso.
Barry Ferguson turns away after opening the scoring.
The managers are animated in the rain as the game rages on.
Byrne shields the ball from Nacho Novo.
Clark pulls back the trigger as he gets set to fire the equaliser.
The ball is now netbound despite the efforts of Rae and Andrews.
Clark celebrates with Muirhead after drawing the Dons level.
Prso's clever backheel deceives Diamond and puts Rangers back in front.
Lovenkrands rises above Heikkinen as Severin looks on.
Prso adds a third and seals the points for Rangers.
Hart outjumps Arverladze in the second half