RANGERS were denied a quite incredible victory here in the Granite City this afternoon as Aberdeen grabbed an injury-time leveler.
Playing 80 minutes of the match with 10-men after a harsh dismissal of Alfredo Morelos, Gers had led through a James Tavernier penalty on the half hour mark. They performed heroically to keep the home side out until Bruce Anderson’s late strike denied them a famous win.
From the side which got past Osijek in the Europa League in midweek, boss Gerrard made three changes.
Out went Ovie Ejaria, Ryan Kent and Daniel Candeias, with their places taken by Scott Arfield, Jamie Murphy and Josh Windass.
Typically, it was a frenetic start, and inside four minutes, Rangers could have taken the lead. A through ball from Arfield gave Murphy the chance to run on goal, with Scott McKenna getting back to clear for Aberdeen. He could only head the ball up in the air, however, with Murphy and Windass both attacking it.
It eventually dropped for Lassana Coulibaly to have a shot blocked, before that rebounded for Ryan Jack who played it on to Arfield to send a drive into the arms of goalkeeper Joe Lewis from 20-yards out.
It was a positive start from Rangers, but in the 11th minute, they were dealt a major blow with Alfredo Morelos sent-off for an off-the-ball incident with McKenna.
With the ball wide with Jamie Murphy, McKenna and Morelos had a coming together, with Morelos dangling a foot in the direction of McKenna. Referee Kevin Clancy deemed it to be a red card offence, and the Light Blues were left to play 80 minutes with 10 men.
Steven Gerrard has been asked a lot in the last week or so about the improved mentality of his side this season, so this would naturally be a massive test of that.
Aberdeen went on to enjoy a lot of the ball, but Gers had them at arms-length, and began to play their way back into the game.
Then, in the 29th minute, a sublime run from Jon Flanagan caused havoc in the Dons defence. He found Lassana Coulibaly for a shot which was blocked, before the ball rebounded into the path of Windass. As he went to shoot, he was hauled down by former Ger Dominic Ball for a clear spot-kick.
After a long delay while McKenna received treatment and eventually had to be replaced, James Tavernier was finally allowed to take the kick.
Lewis guessed the right way and got a hand to the skipper’s kick, but it was too powerful and found the back of the net to spark pandemonium among the terrific band of travelling fans.
That single goal remained intact until the half-time whistle, with Gerrard’s men continuing to hold Aberdeen at bay with a degree of comfort.
And the second half began in much the same manner, with the home side having plenty of the ball without ever testing McGregor.
At the other end, an excellent Coulibaly cross was met by Windass, who, under pressure, headed over the bar while Murphy also had a headed effort which slipped wide.
The 69th minute finally saw Aberdeen create a chance, with Mikey Devlin heading a Gary Mackay-Steven corner off-target while sub Bruce Anderson knocked a Ball cross wide.
There was a blow in the final 10 minutes with the outstanding Ryan Jack having to go off after a strong challenge from Stevie May.
Referee Clancy then added-on six minutes of injury time, and inside two minutes of that, Aberdeen drew themselves level. A Niall McGinn cross bobbled about the penalty area before finding its way to Anderson, who showed composure to fire beyond McGregor.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Flanagan; Jack (Ejaria, 83), Arfield, Coulibaly; Murphy (Kent, 69), Morelos, Windass.
SUBS: Alnwick, Umar, Halliday, McCrorie, Candeias.
ABERDEEN: Lewis, Considine, McKenna (Forrester, 30), Devlin, Gleeson (May, 53), Shinnie, Ferguson, Ball, McGinn, Mackay-Steven, Cosgrove (Anderson, 71).
SUBS: Cerny, Wright, Campbell, Harrington.
REFEREE: Mr Kevin Clancy
ATTENDANCE: 19,046 (inc. 2053 away)