Scottish football gets a bad reputation. Most of the time due to its lack of quality. However, this match was a great advert for the game. It had a bit of everything: drama, penalties, some moments of sublime quality and it was gripping right until the 97th minute.
Rangers won the pulsating fixture 4-2 with a double from Alfredo Morelos, a penalty from captain James Tavernier and a stoppage-time thunderbolt from Jermain Defoe. Meanwhile, Aberdeen’s two goals came from their inform striker Sam Cosgrove.
Alfredo Morelos and Scott McKenna both saw red in the second period. But Rangers managed to see the game out and it left everyone with plenty to chew over after the final whistle. It wouldn’t be a Rangers vs Aberdeen fixture if there weren’t a multitude of talking points to accompany the football.
Alfredo Morelos: two great goals, a superb performance and unlucky to see red
He’s box office. No matter what happens during games, Morelos always has a say. He put Rangers in front twice, the second goal, in particular, was a world-class finish. When he received the ball from Ryan Kent and he was facing Scott McKenna up, nothing looked on, but he used McKenna as a shield and passed it into the corner. An absolute class finish and his 23rd goal of the season. He gave Tommie Hoban and McKenna a torrid time, he bullied them all night; it was all that was good about Morelos condensed into 55 minutes.
When McKenna decided to kick Morelos in the face, he couldn’t wait to get off. Morelos also saw red for ‘leaving his foot in’ but having watched it back, Andy Walker from SkySports, said: “Morelos dangles a leg in there, there’s nothing much in it.” Given the pressure that the referees have been put under since Saturday and the award of those penalties, and indeed the penalty in this match, it was easier for them to even it up. However, if that is a Jermain Defoe, a Ryan Kent or even a James Tavernier in that tussle, they don’t see red.
Morelos, unfortunately, is a target. And yes, it comes with the caveat that he is daft at times, but he’s officiated to the media perception he has in Scotland: a hot-head, etc. It shouldn’t be the case, but these officials will read the newspapers – they are only human. It doesn’t make it right, though. The long and short of it is, Madden, in my opinion, felt he had to even it up, and took the easy way out by sending Morelos off.
For all Aberdeen’s dominance in the second half, McGregor had one real save to make
After the sending offs, Aberdeen gained the momentum and had to try and go for it. Steven Gerrard described it in his post-match interview as “one-way traffic.” At times it felt like that, Aberdeen got plenty of crosses into the Rangers box, many of which were cleared. In fact, Allan McGregor had one real save to make after clawing away a deflected effort. It was all huff-and-puff football from Aberdeen.
They were never going to produce a moment of brilliance and cut Rangers open; that’s not their game. Rangers sat deep and allowed Aberdeen to do what Rangers had been guilty of a lot in December: cross, cross and cross again. It failed. Five shots on target for Aberdeen, Cosgrove’s two goals, two from Wilson and that deflected effort. While it felt like a struggle, Rangers were excellent defensively.
Goldson and Worrall were excellent; Gerrard made a great call bringing on Katic
Following on from the last talking point, I have to say Connor Goldson and Joe Worrall were excellent all night. They fought like warriors and defended the goal for their lives. They stood up to the challenge and passed it with flying colours. However, credit has to go to Steven Gerrard.
With seven minutes left, he takes off Ryan Kent and brings on Nikola Katic. Everyone sitting at home watching, must have been thinking ‘why?’ It goes back to Aberdeen being one-dimensional. Katic comes on because Aberdeen only know one way: lump it. In the end, the three of them helped the two wing-backs, who were getting beat for fun, by clearing everything that came to them in the air. Great substitution from Gerrard and a vital one at that.