Rangers 5-0 Aberdeen: Greg Stewart opens Gers account in Dons mauling
Rangers move just a point behind champions
Last Updated: 29/09/19 6:36pm
Greg Stewart scored his first Rangers goal as his team moved one point behind Ladbrokes Premiership leaders Celtic with a 5-0 thrashing of Aberdeen.
Rangers took full advantage of Celtic's lunchtime draw with Hibernian with an utterly dominant performance at Ibrox.
James Tavernier banished his penalty blues to hit a double from the spot and Alfredo Morelos headed his 13th goal of the season before substitute Jermain Defoe finished the rout.
Morelos was sent off three times against Aberdeen last season and Rangers only beat the Dons twice in seven meetings, but there were few problems this time in a completely one-sided encounter against their injury-hit visitors.
How Rangers thrashed the Dons
Stewart, who had a second loan spell at Aberdeen last season, shone on his first league start since moving from Birmingham. The former Dundee player was a constant menace in Rangers' fluid attacking set-up along with Morelos and Sheyi Ojo.
Stewart was in for Glen Kamara while Niko Katic returned to the starting line-up as Filip Helander dropped out of the 18 following a difficult night at Livingston during Rangers’ Betfred Cup victory.
Connor McLennan overcame a dead leg to start for Aberdeen but they suffered a late blow when Andrew Considine dropped out. Zak Vyner came into central defence.
The home side immediately got on the front foot. Connor Goldson saw a header saved and Morelos and Stewart were both off target from long range, while Ojo shot over after getting in behind the Dons defence and checking his run.
The breakthrough came when Vyner went in late on Morelos, giving Bobby Madden an easy decision to point to the spot.
Tavernier had pledged to keep taking penalties after missing two this season and the right-back sent Joe Lewis the wrong way in the 20th minute to add to the 14 spot-kicks he converted last season.
Rangers maintained their intensity and Michael Devlin soon cleared off the line after Ryan Jack had set up Morelos.
Lewis saved from Ojo and Scott Arfield after they were both set up by Stewart. The goalkeeper then touched Arfield’s header onto the post in the 40th minute but Stewart was on hand to tap home.
The only time Aberdeen had threatened in the first half was when Lewis Ferguson and McLennan fired well over with ambitious efforts. And there was no change to the pattern of play after the break.
Stewart had a 20-yard strike saved before hitting the post from close range after Davis had found him with a lofted pass.
And Morelos headed the third from six yards after running on to a cross from Borna Barisic in the 50th minute.
Stewart continued to cause havoc, setting up Defoe and Arfield, the striker shooting into the side netting and the latter's effort diverted over by Greg Leigh at point-blank range.
The former Dons player then won the second penalty after being pulled down by Leigh as he attacked Tavernier’s cross and the skipper again made no mistake to make it 4-0 in the 71st minute.
Stewart came close with two curlers and Defoe lobbed home Rangers’ fifth goal with 10 minutes left after inadvertently being set up by Ryan Hedges.
Analysis: Redemptive day for Morelos
Sky Sports' Charles Paterson
Last season these sides faced each other in seven games across all competitions, with Aberdeen winning three times in Glasgow. The matches were dramatic, tempestuous and difficult to referee - a stark contrast to this one-sided affair at Ibrox.
Rangers were totally dominant. Steven Gerrard's squad has been significantly strengthened since the teams last met, and even without the attacking threats of Joe Aribo and Ryan Kent, they swarmed all over a makeshift Aberdeen defence from kick-off. The game was over as a contest just after half-time when Morelos headed in the third goal, and Rangers' intensity rarely let up.
Contrast Gerrard's options with Derek McInnes' limitations. His team are decimated by injury, and with half-a-dozen first-team regulars missing, Aberdeen were unable to muster a threat. Andy Considine's late withdrawal due to illness robbed the Dons of their most experienced player; McInnes had two teenagers on his bench and another, Dean Campbell, in his midfield.
Even accounting for these problems, Aberdeen's passing was wayward, and striker Sam Cosgrove was largely starved of service. The cries of 'ole' ringing around Ibrox during the second half will have been tough for McInnes to hear. When his team return to full strength, perhaps then they can challenge the Old Firm on any given day once more.
It was a redemptive day of sorts for Morelos, who received three red cards in these fixtures last season. He was a bullying, hungry and controlled presence, terrorising Zak Vyner all afternoon, and he celebrated his goal shortly after half-time with gusto. Morelos seems to be maturing as a character, but as he controls his temper, he's lost none of his potency.
Another happy man will be Greg Stewart, who has found chances hard to come by at Ibrox. With Aribo and Kent missing, he took his opportunity well and was praised by his manager afterwards. The irony of scoring against his old team will not have been lost on the winger, who spent two largely unsuccessful spells at Pittodrie, where he often looked out of sorts.
After Celtic dropped points for the first time earlier in the day, this was a game Rangers had to stamp their authority on, and they did so with a flourish. The championship is a two-horse race, and may go the distance. Aberdeen's hopes of challenging the top two are already over; having gone out of the League Cup in midweek, their prime goal must be to finish third once again, while targeting a Scottish Cup run in the new year.