Scott Arfield celebrates scoring Rangers' third goal
Credit: Getty Images
Rangers 4 Aberdeen 0
Rangers proclaimed their title credentials by moving into a double-figure points lead over Celtic with this victory over Aberdeen, as comfortable as it was significant.
Goals from Ryan Kent, Kemar Roofe and Scott Arfield were supplemented by the customary penalty conversion from James Tavernier to overwhelm a Dons side who invited inevitable damage when they allowed Rangers freedom of movement in and around their own penalty area.
Rangers’ last outing before the international break was an 8-0 spree at home to Hamilton and the relentless expansion of their goal difference is the equivalent of an extra point to add to the 11 which already separate Steven Gerrard’s players from their arch-foes across the city. Yes, Celtic have two games in hand but the deferred fixtures will increase before they can be addressed because of the Scottish Cup final against Hearts at Hampden Park on December 20.
The goal difference gap has been buttressed by an impressive sequence of clean sheets – this was Rangers’ 13th of the league campaign – and, on the few instances when Aberdeen threatened, Allan McGregor and his defenders rarely looked uncomfortable.
Such would likely not have been the case if Sam Cosgrove had opted for a cutback when he had available support midway through the first half, but the striker chose to shoot from a tight angle and McGregor was able to block, as he did two minutes later when Ryan Hedges got clear on the other side of the box.
By that stage, Rangers were ahead through Kent, who scored the only goal of the opening game of the Scottish Premiership season at Pittodrie on August 1. That should have been warning enough for Derek McInnes’s players but after quarter of an hour the winger nutmegged Funso Ojo and uncorked a drive which clipped Tommy Hoban and went in ff the post.
The goalkeeper was also wrong-footed when Roofe struck a drive beyond him from inside the box shortly before the half hour. Lewis had to pick the ball from his net again before the interval when Arfield scooped the ball home as the interval neared, but the initial shot by Joe Aribo had struck Roofe, who was offside, before it fell for the Canadian.
Arfield struck again, this time legitimately, four minutes into the second half, although the ball took a severe deflection off Shay Logan on its way past the frustrated goalkeeper, whose afternoon became even more painful when Andrew Considine put an arm around Leon Balogun to concede a penalty kick, duly converted by Tavernier. It was the Rangers captain’s 10th goal against the Pittodrie team.
Aberdeen largely spent the remainder of the proceedings fending off Rangers’ shots and crosses and they could cite as mitigation the absence of Lewis Ferguson and Connor McLennan because of Covic-19 rules. McInnes managed to identify a positive when he said: “A few things went against us. This is a good Rangers team and they make you work.
“Box-to-box, I thought we were pretty good with plenty effort from the team but everything was conspiring against us. I’ve got to applaud the players for just sticking with it.”
Gerrard took advantage of Rangers’ superiority to remove a few of his men after the break, with Thursday’s Europa League meeting with Benfica in mind, although Alfredo Morelos did not look enchanted by his departure, to judge by the way he threw his water bottle across the technical area as he was replaced by Jermain Defoe.
Gerrard presented a content demeanour afterwards, although at pains to keep satisfaction within bounds. “I’m very pleased. We were strong throughout, with four good goals and a clean sheet.
“I can’t ask for any more from the players, really. Some of the quality at times today was outstanding. We’ve had a very positive, strong start and we keep moving forward.
“It’s still November. We know there’s a lot of hard work to do. We certainly won’t be getting carried away.”