RANGERS roared out of their winter break with a deserved defeat of Aberdeen to overtake the Dons and claim second place in the Scottish Premiership.
Dominant for long-spells, Alfredo Morelos put the Gers ahead before James Tavernier added a second from the penalty spot with nine minutes of the game left to play.
Graeme Murty’s side began the game on the front foot, stroking the ball about well on the Ibrox turf and then creating the first opportunity of the game, a Josh Windass shot from around 20-yards following some nice setup play from Jamie Murphy.
Windass then came close again shortly afterwards, with the post this time coming to the aid of the Dons. A Daniel Candeias corner was driven into the mix, with Russell Martin bringing the ball down, albeit with his back to goal.
He managed to slide it to Windass who was lurking on the edge of the area, with the Englishman’s shot on goal bobbling about the congested box before cannoning off the upright and back into the grateful arms of keeper Joe Lewis.
Next up for a chance was Alfredo Morelos. Murphy sprayed a ball out to the right for Candeias, and he skipped away from Andy Considine and sent in the perfect ball for Morelos, only for the Colombian to head over at the back post.
Aberdeen hardly featured in the game until the 28th minute, when Gary Mackay-Steven probably should have handed them the lead. A Kenny McLean run through the middle caused havoc in the home defence, and he slid the ball left for the unmarked winger, with Wes Foderingham coming out to block his shot with an excellent save with his leg.
That was a rare blip in what was as steady stream of one-way traffic, and with after a sustained period of pressure in and around the visitors’ box, Rangers took a deserved lead on 32 minutes.
Daniel Candeias’ initial cross from the right was pushed away by Lewis but only back out to the right to James Tavernier. His ball to the back-post was just superb, and on the stretch, Morelos atoned for his earlier miss by bulleting a header into the back of the net.
It was superb football from Gers and fine finishing from Morelos for his 13th of the season, but they almost undid their good work straight from the restart.
Aberdeen poured forward straight from the restart and had Gers under some sustained pressure, although their best effort on goal was a pretty routine save for Foderingham again from McLean.
In the last minute of the half, Rangers could have doubled their lead with a Sean Goss free-kick only inches away from being connected to by David Bates.
Into the second half, and again, Gers were the busier of the two sides in an attacking sense. Scott McKenna was fortunate to escape with only a yellow when Alfredo Morelos showed him a clean pair of heels to latch onto a stunning Candeias through-ball before the striker was bundled to the ground.
Then, from a Goss corner, Russell Martin headed narrowly over the bar as the Light Blues pushed for a cushion.
The chances were starting to mount, with another decent opening for Morelos coming and going. Jason Holt played a lovely ball down to the left by-line for Declan John, and his deflected cross went all the way to the back post where Morelos was waiting. The touch the ball took on its way over seemed to deceive him, however, and he was unable to sort his feet to put it in the back of the net.
The Colombian then had yet another shot on goal after he was played-in by Holt, but as he went to strike the ball he slipped, with the ball ending up on the roof of the net.
Lewis then had to make a top save as a Windass drive from 25-yards took a deflection to send it looping towards the net, only for the big goalkeeper to stick up a hand to claw the ball over the top of the bar at the last possible second.
The goal was coming, and with 13 minutes left on the clock, Gers were handed the perfect opportunity from the penalty spot. A superb Tavernier through-ball was met by Windass, and as he closed in on goal, keeper Lewis brought Windass down, injuring himself in the process.
That meant a stoppage of four minutes before Tavernier could take the spot-kick, but when he did, he sent replacement keeper Danny Rogers the wrong way to at last give the home side breathing space.
Much like the first goal, Aberdeen responded well, and they forced Wes Foderingham into a trio of stunning stops in quick succession from successive corners.
His first, and possibly best save came at point-blank range from an Andy Considine effort after he found space in the box for a shot, before the big stopper followed that up with further superb blocks to deny Adam Rooney and former-Ger Dominic Ball.
It was a little nervier than what it might have been for Murty’s men, but they held out for a thoroughly merited win.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, John, Windass (Halliday, 88), Morelos (Cummings 70), Candeias (Cardoso, 90) Holt, Bates, Goss, Murphy, Martin.
SUBS: Alnwick, Herrera, Hodson, Kranjcar.
ABERDEEN: Lewis (Rogers, 80), Logan, Shinnie, McKenna, O’Connor, Considine, McLean, Stewart (McGinn, 59), Rooney, Christie, Mackay-Steven (Ball, 77).
SUBS: Reynolds, Aranson, Wright, Maynard.
ATTENDANCE: 49, 707