Goals from captain Graeme Shinnie and on-loan Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie saw Derek McInnes’ team formally underline their status as the second-best team in the country, providing his opposite number, Pedro Caixinha, with further food for thought as he seeks to revitalise Rangers.
Martyn Waghorn’s goal insitgated a late rally from Rangers but despite substitute Jayden Stockley’s late dismissal, Aberdeen merited their first win in this fixture since goals from Eoin Jess and Brian Grant secured a 2-0 success back in September 1991.
They were by far the more purposeful and cohesive side last night and the lead provided by Shinnie’s ninth-minute strike was the least they deserved from a largely dominant first-half performance.
The raggedness and uncertainty of Rangers’ work, which has been a fairly constant theme under Caixinha’s guidance so far, was typified in their own contribution to the concession of the early goal.
Jon Toral hesitated needlessly inside his own penalty area, forcing goalkeeper Wes Foderingham to make a rushed clearance. The ball broke in Aberdeen’s favour, allowing Shinnie to make a surging run towards goal. Toral was culpable again, appearing to pull out of a challenge on the Aberdeen skipper who proceeded to drive a low shot firmly beyond Foderingham.
There was no discernible pattern to Rangers’ play in response and they were forced into an early change when Lee Hodson limped off to be replaced by Myles Beerman, further reducing the average age of a back four which already included his fellow 18-year-old, Aidan Wilson – making his debut because of an injury to Clint Hill – and 20-year-old David Bates.
Kenny Miller, again deployed in a midfield role by Caixinha, tried to spark Rangers into life when he dispossessed Mark Reynolds and drove forward to set up Joe Garner for a decent chance which he curled just off target.
The ever-combative Garner then headed wide from a Barrie McKay corner but Rangers were unable to sustain any significant attacking momentum. Josh Windass should have done better when a Miller through ball picked him out but his poor first touch was emblematic of the home side’s fecklessness.
Aberdeen finished the first half firmly in the ascendancy and should have doubled their lead. Ash Taylor was dreadfully wasteful when Andrew Considine’s knockdown found him around six yards out where his shot was too close to Foderingham who made a smart save.
The Rangers goalkeeper defied the Dons again when, after Toral had fouled the lively Christie around 25 yards out, Niall McGinn’s brilliantly struck free-kick was flicked over by the stretching Englishman.
Caixinha made another change at the start of the second half, replacing Joe Dodoo with Waghorn, but it was Aberdeen who resumed on the front foot.
An error by Bates put the home defence in trouble and Foderingham excelled again, saving from both McGinn and Adam Rooney in a frantic scramble.
It was certainly no surprise when the visitors made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute. James Tavernier’s weak defending allowed McGinn to deliver a cross from the left which Rooney knocked back across goal for Christie to nod home from close range.
The Rangers support, many of who had jeered their team off at half-time, were now in mutinous mood. Caixinha’s final throw of the dice saw him send on another 18-year-old, Jamie Barjonas, for the insipid Toral.
A route back into the contest appeared unlikely for Rangers but they found one just after the hour mark. It was a well worked and admirably executed goal. Windass thrust his way past a couple of challenges and stabbed a through ball into the path of Waghorn who guided a perfectly weighted chip shot over Joe Lewis into the net.
Rangers enjoyed a greater share of possession and territorial advantage in the closing stages, without creating any clear-cut chances to equalise. Aberdeen sub Stockley managed to collect two bookings inside four minutes as the clock ticked down, for fouls on Bates and Wilson, but his exit came too late to seriously harm his side.
There was an element of acrimony at the final whistle, as Caixinha appeared to engage in animated disagreement with McInnes and his assistant, Tony Docherty, but nothing could remove the smiles from Aberdeen faces.