An Aberdeen side down to the bare bones thanks to illness and injury were left chasing shadows in Glasgow as they slipped to a heavy, chastening defeat at Ibrox.
With Aberdeen's injury problems continuing to bite, Derek McInnes made two changes from the midweek defeat at Hearts, Andy Considine - ruled out with illness an hour before kick-off - and James Wilson missing out completely, Zak Vyner and Niall McGinn replacing them. That means the number of first team players missing was up to eight, Andy and James joining Funso Ojo, Craig Bryson, Scott McKenna, Ash Taylor, Scott Wright and Stephen Gleeson on the sidelines. Shay Logan was in the line-up to make his 400th career start. Amid a very youthful bench, Seb Ross and Connor Barron were added. Rangers made three changes from their Wednesday win over Livingston, Helander, Kamara and Aribo replaced by Katic, Davis and former Don Greg Stewart.
The Dons enjoyed success over Rangers last season but this was always going to be a tough shift with so many experienced players unavailable, but within 12 seconds, Sam Cosgrove forced the first corner of the game. Hedges' ball in was cleared by Jack at the front post area. A minute later, after a dangerous free-kick, Rangers won their first corner which was headed wide by Morelos.
In the third minute a Greg Leigh throw-in was picked up by Ferguson who tried his luck from 35 yards out but his dipping shot was always going over. Two minutes later, Stewart won a second corner. Morelos headed the ball back across for Goldson and his header was on target but Joe Lewis was well positioned to calmly claim it. After nine minutes Sheyi Ojo beat the offside trap and had time and space but could only fire his shot over.
A mistake by Hedges then allowed Stewart a run in on goal but his low shot never troubled Lewis. Connor McLennan then should have done better after great hold up play by Cosgrove, but he overran the ball.
In the 19th minute Morelso was tripped by Vyner and referee Bobby Madden pointed to the spot. Tavernier put Lewis the wrong way to give Rangers the lead. Aberdeen then very nearly gifted Rangers a second straight from the kick-off but thankfully Morelos had a shot cleared off the line by Devlin.
On 25 minutes Lewis made a good block from Ojo after Stewart and threaded through a neat ball. Two minutes later Lewis collided with Logan when coming for a high ball. Thankfully both were able to continue.
This was a hard watch as it was one way traffic. In the 28th minute, Niall McGinn was harshly booked for a foul on Morelos. Joe Lewis then went down again and the captain was clearly struggling.
Around the half hour mark, Aberdeen won a couple of free-kicks in good areas - Tavernier somehow escaping a yellow card for his foul on Leigh - but both were comfortably cleared before McLennan wasted a promising attacking by blasting a shot over when he had team mates in support.
On 38 minutes, Stewart's pass found the run of Arfield and Lewis did well to palm away his shot. Then in the 40th minute, Rangers added a second. A cross from the right was headed goalward by Stewart and it looked like the ball was heading into the net but Lewis pulled off a stunning save at full stretch, tipping the ball onto the post, but it bounced back out and Stewart, the only player to follow in, tapped the ball into the empty net.
HALF-TIME: Rangers 2 Aberdeen 0
Rangers kept possession from the restart, ending in the 47th minute with Tavernier blazing over from the edge of the box before the Dons had barely had a touch. A minute later, Lewis had to make another sharp save to his left from Stewart's drive at goal from the edge of the box, then in the 49th minute, a clever long ball forward got Stewart in behind, his first time shot from close range hitting the post.
But Rangers wouldn't be denied and in the 50th minute, it was 3-0, Barisic picking out Morelos with a fine cross, the Colombian running away from Ferguson to nod in from eight yards.
Rangers were creating chances at will and in the 55th minute, Jack charged down the left to set up Ojo, his shot from distance deflected wide. From Tavernier's corner, Stewart headed wide after Goldson won the first ball. Just before the hour, Rangers were able to introduce Defoe for Ojo and he could have been celebrating with his colleagues seconds later as Goldson put a free header from Tavernier's corner well wide. Defoe's first chance came in the 61st minute as he got away from Devlin but put his effort wide from a tight angle.
The Dons finally carved out a chance in the 67th minute, McGinn's free-kick from the touchline looking for Devlin at the back post, but he got under his effort. A minute later, Campbell was first onto a loose ball 30 yards out, sweeping his left foot shot goalwards and only just wide.
Rangers responded instantly and good feet from Stewart created space and a seemingly certain goal for Arfield, Leigh making a super block in the six yard box to send the ball over. Morelos was then replaced by Barker but there was not much respite was earned though for in the 70th minute, Tavernier's probing cross saw Leigh pull Stewart down as he looked to get on the end of it. Penalty and up stepped Tavernier to drill the ball home, straight down the middle to make it two goals and three professional fouls for the afternoon for the Rangers skipper. The Dons immediately brought on Gallagher for McLennan.
Cosgrove went on the run for the Dons, outsprinting Goldson, but as he turned the ball back into the six yard box, there was only a blue shirt in sight, waiting to clear. Rangers made their final change when Edmundson came on for Davis in the 76th minute. Three minutes later, a bending 20 yarder from Stewart went just wide of the target.
Goal five did come moments later, an unfortunate deflection off Hedges as he tried to clear on the edge of the box dropping perfectly for Defoe to run away into space and produce a delicate lob over Lewis from 12 yards out.
Cosgrove was booked in the 82nd minute for a slight touch on McGregor as he cleared his lines then Ethan Ross replaced McGinn seconds later. Devlin became the third Don in the book in the 86th minute. A minute later, Stewart came close again, curling a shot through the box and wide. Cosgrove was then replaced by Main in the Dons' final change as they looked to run down the clock and get back up the road to lick their wounds and patch up the wounded.