An Aberdeen side that was decimated by injuries and absentees found league leaders Rangers too much to handle fell to a four goal defeat at Ibrox Stadium. The home side scored with three deflections and a penalty.
With Ross McCrorie already absent under the terms of his loan agreement, Aberdeen's preparations for the game at Ibrox were further rocked when Lewis Ferguson and Connor McLennan were ruled out under the Covid-19 protocols after being away with Scotland's Under 21 side during the international break. Niall McGinn was also injured on international duty with Northern Ireland. Jonny Hayes, Dylan McGeouch, Marley Watkins and Tomas Cerny were also joined on the treatment table by Scott Wright who has a groin strain.
As a consequence, Derek McInnes made four changes from the side that beat Hibernian at Pittodrie before the break. In came Shay Logan, Funso Ojo, Greg Leigh and Ryan Edmondson in place of McLennan, Ferguson, McCrorie and Wright as the Dons adopted a 4-4-2 formation. Coming into the matchday squad on the bench were Dean Campbell, Mark Gallagher, Kieran Ngwenya, Calvin Ramsay and 16-year-old Ryan Duncan.
Rangers, eight points clear at the top of the table, made two changes from the side that beat Hamilton Accies 8-0 before the break. Allan McGregor and Alfredo Morelos returned to the starting XI in place of Jon McLaughlin and Jermain Defoe.
Good work from Ryan Hedges put McGregor under pressure in the second minute, making him hurry his clearance, showing the kind of energy and commitment the Dons would need at Ibrox. Moments later, Kent got in behind the Aberdeen rearguard from a Tavernier pass, the assistant missing a clear offside, Joe Lewis doing brilliantly to save with his feet.
Aribo looked to be in on goal in the seventh minute, getting away from Ojo, but Lews was smartly off his line to smother. But just as Aberdeen looked to be settling to the game, Rangers were in front in the 15th minute in unfortunate circumstances, Kent's blast from 25 yards hitting Tommie Hoban and spinning beyond Lewis and in off the post. Four minutes later, Roofe threw himself to the deck under Ojo's challenge but the referee was unmoved and didn't give the penalty that Roofe was after.
Aberdeen had a first look at goal in the 23rd minute, Edmondson setting Hedges on the run to feed Sam Cosgrove, McGregor palming his shot from a tight angle behind for a corner. From that, Aberdeen forced another but that came to nothing as the referee gave a foul against the Dons as the ball came in.
Cosgrove was also unlucky when he was wrongly flagged for offside.
In the 26th minute, Hedges was on the run again, accelerating through the Rangers half and away from their defence, McGregor making a sharp save at his near post again from a difficult angle for the Aberdeen man.
Good, quick feet from Roofe made it 2-0 in the 29th minute though, the striker dragging the ball through the box rather too easily before firing in his shot that wrong footed Lewis on its way in. They had the ball in the net again four minutes later, the goal chalked off for offside.
Fine work from Leigh sprang an Aberdeen attack in the 38th minute, winning the ball well and then finding Cosgrove with a great 50 yard crossfield ball. Cosgrove rolled the ball into the advancing Hedges but his shot cannoned away to safety off Goldson.
Jack and Goldson somehow escaped a yellow card for combining to wipe out Cosgrove on the edge of the box in the 44th minute. From 25 yards out, Matty Kennedy put it over the wall but McGregor was equal to it, diving to his right to clutch the ball.
HALF-TIME: RANGERS 2 ABERDEEN 0
Rangers opened the half well, Andy Considine making a terrific block to deny Arfield after a wayward defensive header from Hedges. Arfield wasn't to be denied though and in the 50th minute, he made it 3-0, his shot getting a thick deflection off Logan that caught out Lewis, going the other way, able only to watch helplessly as the ball bobbled in.
Two minutes later, referee Walsh gave a penalty as Considine pushed Balogan over, the defender getting booked too. Tavernier stepped up and sent Lewis the wrong way to score. Rangers then brought on Davis to replace Jack.
A good cross from Considine gave Aberdeen a glimpse of the Rangers goal in the 58th minute, Edmondson not able to get on top of the ball and putting his header over the bar. Aberdeen kept the pressure on with a good ball in from Hedges that Tavernier struggled to turn behind, Rangers scrambling the resultant corner away.
Curtis Main replaced Edmondson after 64 minutes as Aberdeen looked for some kind of consolation from the game. Rangers responded by bringing on Defoe and Kamara for Kent and a disgruntled Morelos who threw down his gloves and stomped off to a seat on his own in the stand - you find your entertainment where you can on days like this. Dean Campbell returned from injury in the 74th minute, replacing Cosgrove, Rangers introducing Hagi and Itten for Roofe and Aribo as the game began to meander towards its close.
Rangers roused themselves for another attack in the 78th minute, Hagi crossing for Tavernier, Hoban getting an important touch to get it away in the six yard box, Ash Taylor tidying up behind him. The Dons responded, Kennedy away down the right a couple of minutes later, his cross getting a deflection, Main looking to turn it in at the near post, McGregor saving comfortably.
Lewis made a much better save in the 83rd minute, another unlucky deflection from a corner, the ball striking Campbell and heading for the top corner, quick reactions from Lewis allowing him to claw the ball away to safety. Aberdeen then brought on Ronald Hernandez and young Ryan Duncan, Leigh and Logan making way in the 84th minute.
Good defending from Kennedy stopped Itten having a tap-in in the 88th minute after Considine was caught in possession. Itten had another chance in time added on, up high at the near post but directing his header wide as the game came to its conclusion.