RANGERS thumped Aberdeen by three goals at Ibrox to move within three points of the second placed Dons.
Graeme Murty shuffled his Gers pack into a midfield diamond and brought Carlos Pena and Bruno Alves into his starting XI and his change of approach paid dividends.
Rangers had their lead after a mere seven minutes, James Tavernier slotting home a penalty after Jason Holt was fouled. Their pressure didn’t let up and Pena repaid Murty’s faith by scoring his side’s second and his fifth of the season just before the half hour mark.
Derek McInnes’ side had their chances but a third for the Light Blues on 20 minutes from the boot of Man of the Match Tavernier ensured three points before Ryan Christie was shown red late on for the away side.
As Ibrox roared the game into action Rangers started as they would go on, in storming fashion and Josh Windass could have had the Gers ahead with under a minute gone. Tavernier whipped a ball along the turf from the right and the forward was waiting a few yards out in prime position to turn the ball beyond Joe Lewis. His connection wasn’t pure though and he skewed the ball wide.
Greg Tansey then put a tame shot wide at the other end in what was to become a rip roaring opening.
With just seven minutes gone Rangers had their lead from the penalty spot. Jason Holt was barged to the ground as Tansey followed the ball in the air and ploughed into the midfielder a foot into the box. With Holt wiped out Andrew Dallas pointed straight to the spot and up stepped the unlikely figure of Tavernier. The full-back did his job though as he drilled the ball down the centre of the Dons goal.
The Gers next big chance came through Pena with the Mexican playing for Murty for the first time since his interim charge began. The 28-year-old drove through the middle to go alone and send a pile driver of a strike at Lewis. The Dons keeper had to scramble back to get on his toes and tip the dangerous effort over the bar.
There were Rangers hearts in mouths a minute later when Foderingham came out to meet the Aberdeen attack. The home side conceded a corner from that and Anthony O’Connor headed narrowly over at the near post.
The game was going end to end and on 25 minutes Windass had the ball in the back of the net but the flag was up. The 23-year-old latched onto a superb through ball from Ross McCrorie which sliced the Dons defence in half but he was caught just the wrong side of Lewis’ backline.
Rangers wanted two and they had their double seconds later, this time Pena making sure the ball hit the back of the net. Tavernier released Holt down the right channel and the buzzy middleman broke into the box to square to the onrushing Pena who slid the ball right footed underneath Lewis.
Aberdeen nearly pulled one back quickly when Christie whipped a free-kick into the box from the left. McInnes’ side tried with all their might to scramble the ball over the line in a packed penalty area but Rangers cleared their lines rapidly to avert any further danger.
Lewis was called into action again on 34 minutes when Tavernier found himself with just the keeper to beat a few yards out on the angle. The English stopper went to ground to smother the ball at the right-back’s feet and keep his side’s chances alive.
Gary Mackay-Steven came on for the Dons for the injured Tansey two minutes before the break and within seconds could had a goal but instead was shown a yellow. The Celtic loanee latched onto a ball swung from the right to dart into the box on the Dons left and shot wide of the post. The forward claimed he’d had contact from Tavernier who shadowed him from behind and was booked for dissent as he chased ref Dallas back to the halfway line to protest.
Aberdeen started the second half by testing Foderingham with a low and ultimately soft shot from the outside the box. The Gers number one scooped up O’Connor’s shot with little issue. Rangers went close early on too, seven minutes later, when Windass sent a waist height corner in from the right and Danny Wilson nearly turned it home at the near post. The pace wasn’t letting up.
The Dons produced a neat little interchange of play on 62 minutes to get another save out of Foderingham. Mackay-Stevens was involved in the build-up before Christie tried to curl the ball inside the near post with the outside of his foot having worked his way into the area.
With 20 minutes to go Rangers cruised into a 3-0 lead. Tavernier profited from his own hard work in the middle of the field to win the ball back off the Dons when he popped up on the end of the same attack. Holt sprayed the ball out to Windass on the right and he whipped a cross through Andy Considine’s legs into the path of Tavernier who, unmarked, tapped home from a few yards out.
The Dons night was going from bad to worse and six minutes from time Ryan Christie was shown a second yellow for a tug on McCrorie, sending the visitors down to 10 men.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Wilson, Alves, John; McCrorie, Jack, Holt, Pena (Candeias 68’), Windass (Hardie 87’), Miller (Herrera 83’)
Subs not used: Alnwick, Bates, Hodson, Kranjcar.
Goals: Tavernier 7’ 70’ Pena 27’
Yellows: McCrorie 38’ Holt 57’ Alves 65’
ABERDEEN: Lewis, Logan, Shinnie, Considine, O’Connor, McLean, Arnason (Stewart 78’), Tansey (Mackay-Steven 43’ (Rooney 83’), McKenna, Christie, May.
Subs not used: Reynolds, Maynard, Ball, Rogers.
Yellows: O’Connor 18’ Shinnie 33’ Mackay-Steven 44’ Christie 58’
Reds: Christie 84’