Rangers moved 11 points clear in the Scottish Premiership with a 4-0 victory over an under-strength Aberdeen. First-half goals from Ryan Kent and Kemar Roofe sent unbeaten Rangers on their way to a 13th win in 15 league games as Steven Gerrard’s team took full advantage of Celtic dropping two points at Hibernian on Saturday.
The contest was well and truly finished early in the second half when Scott Arfield scored a deflected third and James Tavernier converted his ninth penalty of the season. Celtic have two games in hand but Rangers showed the gap between themselves and the league’s third-placed team, albeit the Dons had a host of selection problems.
Aberdeen had only lost once in the league since going down to Rangers in a disappointing opening-day performance, but they were without eight players. Derek McInnes was already missing the injured Niall McGinn, Marley Watkins, Dylan McGeouch and Jonny Hayes along with the on-loan Rangers player Ross McCrorie, before McCrorie’s positive coronavirus test forced his Scotland Under-21s teammates Connor McLennan and Lewis Ferguson into self-isolation. On top of that, Scott Wright was a surprise absentee.
Rangers went with Alfredo Morelos up front with Roofe and Kent supporting and the latter could have scored in the third minute after beating the offside trap following Tavernier’s through ball, but Joe Lewis saved the one-on-one.
Kent scored from a far more difficult opportunity in the 15th minute. The former Liverpool winger nutmegged Funso Ojo and fired a 30-yard shot which spun off Tommie Hoban’s face and the post before hitting the net.
Ojo got away with a clumsy penalty-area tackle from behind on Roofe before Aberdeen created two chances. But Sam Cosgrove and Ryan Hedges were too far wide to cause Allan McGregor real problems, although the goalkeeper parried each shot behind for a corner.
Roofe doubled the lead in the 29th minute when he latched on to Connor Goldson’s delicate ball over the top of Andy Considine and ran through Greg Leigh’s challenge before hitting a shot in off Lewis. Rangers were denied a third by a flag after Joe Aribo’s shot hit the offside Roofe before Arfield tucked home the rebound.
Aberdeen broke well before Goldson blocked a Hedges shot and McGregor saved Matty Kennedy’s free-kick just before half-time, but any hopes of a challenge were extinguished inside eight minutes of the restart.
Arfield scored from his second chance in the opening four minutes when his shot hit off Shay Logan and deceived Lewis after the midfielder had been set up by Kent. Tavernier then netted his 13th goal of the season after Considine had been penalised for a pull on Leon Balogun at a corner.
Rangers were able to bring on the internationals Steven Davis, Jermain Defoe, Glen Kamara and Ianis Hagi, while Aberdeen had four players on the bench without any first-team appearances and five others who only have one league start between them this season.
McInnes gave Curtis Main and Dean Campbell some game time following injury-hit starts to the season and handed 16-year-old Ryan Duncan a debut.
Rangers could not add to their lead despite continuing to dominate. Tavernier and Hagi came close and Campbell headed against his own crossbar.