'Eye-opener': Michael Beale warns Rangers players about 'hugely damaging' consequences and says Celtic will be different game
Despite having the better of the first half and missing two good chances through Alfredo Morelos and Fashion Sakala, Rangers fell behind to a freak Liam Scales strike on 48 minutes and then conceded a second nine minutes later when Bojan Miovski netted a diving header. The visitors were unable to find a way back into the match and suffered their first defeat to a team outside of Celtic since Beale took over in December.
“We started the game quite well,” said Beale. “You go in at half time being dominant, Aberdeen were struggling to get a foothold in the game. You know what the second half can bring. The first goal is obviously a bit of a freak goal and then I didn’t really like our reaction for 10 or 15 minutes. I thought we reacted poorly, I thought one or two started taking extra touches, I thought Aberdeen pressed down well on us. Ultimately we got done today. We got done.
Celtic can now clinch the title when the cinch Premiership resumes in a fortnight if they win their first post-split fixtures, with Rangers trailing the league leaders by 13 points in second place with five games remaining. Beale preferred to use what happened at Pittodrie in the context of the next campaign. “It’s not as damaging right now as it would have been another time in the season,” the Englishman continued. “The damage in our season was done before today but it’s a lesson for coming back next season as Aberdeen are back to the Aberdeen of old. We competed really well in the game and it was a horrible last 20, 25 minutes so it leaves a horrible feeling. I don’t want to take anything away from them but when you come to Pittodrie and create four chances like we did in the first half then you have to take them.”
"I think it’s the reality of Scottish football for some of these players. Aberdeen look like they are back to their old selves under Derek [McInnes]. They are quite front foot, quite aggressive in the way they play. You could see what it meant to them at the end, but that’s fine. It’s a rivalry and you could see what it meant to them to get the win and I think it’s a warning sign to us going into next year. We have gone away from home and blown quite a few teams away. But next year this sort of result will be hugely damaging to us. It’s an eye-opener for one or two players and the lesson for the team is that when you get the chances we had today you have to take them.”
Beale refuted suggestions that the defeat could damage morale ahead of next Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic. “It’s a completely different game,” said Beale. “Next week will just take care of itself. It’s a huge game, it’s a derby. Our team will be different by one or two players as well. But it’s a completely different way the game will be played.”
Rangers were without key players such as Ryan Kent and Connor Goldson once again and Beale is unsure whether they will be back for Hampden. “Scott Wright trained yesterday, [Nicolas] Raskin passed a fitness test on his ankle to play. You’re hoping one or two will be back. I will know more by later in the week.”