How Rangers became 'Invincibles' with style as 4-0 romp against Aberdeen starts title party at Ibrox and beyond

Amidst a percussion of pyrotechnics both inside and outside the stadium, Rangers brought the curtain down on a remarkable Premiership campaign in an appropriately dominant and triumphant fashion.

Fireworks accompany Rangers' title celebrations at Ibrox as James Tavernier lifts the Premiership trophy aloft among his team-mates. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

The ‘Invincible’ status Steven Gerrard and his players had targeted ever since clinching the cherished 55th Scottish top flight title over two months earlier was achieved with a 4-0 defeat of Aberdeen.

It set the stage for celebrations which have been 10 years in the making for a football club which has been to the depths of despair and back again since they were last Scottish champions in 2011.

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For the hundreds of fans who gathered outside Ibrox in defiance of social distancing guidelines, this is regarded as payback time after a decade laced with humiliations for their club.

Jubilant Rangers players celebrate as captain James Tavernier holds up the Premiership trophy. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The enthusiasm of their celebrations was matched by those on the pitch after the full-time whistle. After a season in which they have set such relentlessly consistent standards in the Premiership, Gerrard and his squad weren’t going to miss the opportunity to milk every moment.

For Rangers captain James Tavernier, who lived through some of the more painful experiences of ‘The Journey’ after joining the club in 2015, the moment he would have pictured in his mind’s eye for so long finally became reality when he stepped forward to collect the Premiership trophy.

Fittingly, it was handed to him by Rangers’ greatest ever captain John Greig and the pair shared a warm embrace.

Rangers captain James Tavernier and manager Steven Gerrard pose for photographers with the Premiership trophy. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Unlike League 1 champions Partick Thistle, Rangers chose not to ban SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan and chief executive Neil Doncaster from their trophy day as part of lingering resentment over how the curtailed 2019-20 season ended.

Wisely, however, both men remained in the directors’ box throughout, applauding politely as the revelry unfolded. Rangers chairman Douglas Park and his deputy John Bennett, two of the benefactors who have financed Gerrard’s impressive restoration of their club, carried the trophy out onto the pitch before leaving the stage clear for Greig to hand it over.

As Tavernier rose it aloft, the confetti showers began and the champagne corks popped. Gerrard grinned in delight, clearly trying to savour every second.

When his turn came to pose with the trophy, there was a thoughtful touch as he beckoned Ally McCoist, on punditry duty for Sky Sports, over to join him. It was a gesture McCoist, whose spell as Rangers manager came during their darkest period off the pitch, would have appreciated.

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It was a day full of emotion for Rangers but also one when the hard currency of statistics underpinned the scale of their feat.

In recording only the fourth undefeated top flight title-winning season Scottish football has seen, they also broke the 100-point barrier for the first time in their history.

Their final tally of 102 gave them a 25-point winning margin over deposed champions Celtic, while a 26th clean sheet broke the record set by their Old Firm rivals in 2011-12.

With just 13 goals conceded, the Scottish and British records previously held by Celtic (17) and Chelsea (15) respectively for a 38-game top flight league campaign were also seized.

Only four of those goals were conceded at Ibrox where Rangers won all 18 of their Premiership fixtures. By any measure, this is a title-winning team which deserves its place in the pantheon of exceptional sides to have been crowned champions of Scotland since league football began 131 years ago.

The game itself was almost a sideshow and generally lacked the intensity normally associated with this fixture, especially in a first half controlled almost at training pace by Rangers.

There was an element of fortune to their fifth minute opener, although Ianis Hagi’s crossfield pass to pick out Tavernier on the right was a delight.

The Rangers captain’s driven ball took a deflection off Aberdeen left-back Jack MacKenzie before being scooped into his own net by goalkeeper Joe Lewis as he made a botched attempt to claw it away.

The hosts doubled their lead 11 minutes before the break when Ryan Kent did well to keep the ball in play down the left before driving into the penalty area. His cutback found Kemar Roofe whose shot took a slight nick off the luckless MacKenzie on its way into the net.

Having been so passive in the first period, Aberdeen opted to make a game of it in the second half. Quite how they failed to deny Rangers that record-breaking clean sheet will be a source of bewilderment to manager Stephen Glass.

Stepping up the tempo of their play and producing some slick passages of play, they created several premium chances but scorned them all. Substitute Fraser Hornby missed a snip from inside the six yard box, while Lewis Ferguson hit the crossbar from whites-of-the-eyes range.

By contrast, Rangers were clinical in the attacking third even though they largely remained in cruise control mode.

Roofe made it 3-0 on the hour mark with a fine finish after smart work from Hagi. It was the 18th goal of the season for Roofe who finishes one behind top scorer Tavernier.

He was replaced by Jermain Defoe who rounded things off with his seventh goal of the season when he gathered a pass from fellow sub Greg Stewart and steered the ball beyond Lewis.

The fireworks had seldom abated all day but the final whistle was the cue for them to start in earnest again. In the blue half of Glasgow and beyond, they may be heard for some time yet.

Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Simpson, Aribo (Itten 79); Hagi (Arfield 62), Davis, Kamara; Roofe (Stewart 69), Morelos (Defoe 62), Kent (Wright 69). Subs not used: McLaughlin, Firth, King.

Aberdeen (4-2-3-1): Lewis, McLennan, Hoban, Considine, MacKenzie; Ferguson, McGeouch; Hedges (Ramsay 88), Kamberi (Hornby 46), Hayes (McGinn 75); Hendry (Campbell 46). Subs not used: Ritchie, Ross, Gallagher, Ruth, Kennedy.

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