Aberdeen continue to put the hex on Steven Gerrard and Rangers. For the second time this season, Derek McInnes’ side inflicted a shattering blow on the Ibrox club’s bid to end their eight-year wait for a major trophy.
Having eliminated Rangers in the League Cup semi-final last October, the Pittodrie men secured a Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic next month as goals from Niall McGinn and Connor McLennan earned victory in an engrossing quarter-final replay.
While Aberdeen continue to nurture their own hopes of Scottish Cup glory, Gerrard’s debut season at Rangers is in danger of petering out meekly with Celtic’s eight point lead at the top of the Premiership unlikely to be surrendered by the reigning champions.
For the Dons, the only sour note on a memorable evening for them in Govan was the booking collected by captain Graeme Shinnie which rules him out of the semi-final.
It was clear that Storm Gareth would be a major factor in this contest. The swirling wind made every pass an adventure but it provided no excuse for Kamara’s dreadful error which handed Aberdeen a precious opener after just three minutes.
If anything, the conditions should have ensured the Finnish international realised it was a bad idea to attempt a pass across the face of his own penalty area. That was exactly what Kamara did, however. It was intended for his captain James Tavernier but was woefully short and pounced upon by McGinn.
The former Celtic winger didn’t need to be asked twice as he surged away from Tavernier into the box and showed great composure to slide a low left foot shot beyond the advancing Allan McGregor.
It was a shock to the system for the hosts who would have hoped to tap into the raucous atmosphere created by a near sell-out crowd and seize the early initiative.
Instead, it took Rangers some time to gather themselves and try and adapt to the difficulties being presented overhead and underfoot by the wind and rain.
Before they could gather any sort of sustained attacking momentum, they survived another moment of defensive uncertainty when Stevie May - in for the suspended Sam Cosgrove in attack for Aberdeen - might have done more to punish a mix-up between McGregor and Connor Goldson on the edge of their own penalty area.
It seemed to spark Rangers into life at the other end and Morelos saw his first effort of the night brilliantly blocked by Scott McKenna. But Morelos’ next significant involvement saw him collect the suspension-triggering booking which many Rangers supporters had feared. It was a repeat of the caution he received in the first tie at Pittodrie as Kevin Clancy penalised him for simulation as he went down in the box under Andy Considine’s challenge.
Rangers could not afford Morelos to brood on the realisation he would miss the semi-final if they were able to get there. He was soon back in the thick of the action, this time earning Rangers a free-kick on the edge of the box when he tumbled under a McKenna foul. Aberdeen ‘keeper Joe Lewis was forced into his first save of the night when he clutched Borna Barisic’s well struck effort from the set piece at the second attempt.
Gerrard’s men came close to an equaliser in the 37th minute when Aberdeen were unable to properly clear a Ryan Kent corner, the ball breaking to Ryan Jack who was unfortunate to see his low drive rebound off Lewis’s left hand post.
Rangers were now dominant in possession but lacked the imagination and precision necessary in the final third of the pitch to break down an Aberdeen side defending with outstanding tactical diligence.
As the home side stayed out the front foot in the second half, their attacking output did not improve. An example of their poor decision making when they got into threatening positions came in the 57th minute when Tavernier saw a shot blocked by McKenna when a simple pass to the unmarked Daniel Candeias was a better option.
Having soaked up the pressure, Aberdeen conjured up a superb second goal to put themselves firmly in sight of the semi-finals just after the hour mark. It was the slickest of counter-attacking moves from the Dons, Lewis Ferguson finding the tireless May whose reverse pass set McLennan free in the box. The 19-year-old steadied himself and coolly drove a low shot across McGregor into the corner of the net.
Gerrard’s hopes of winning a trophy in his first season in management were rapidly drifting away in front of his eyes as the small contingent of away fans began celebrating in anticipation of another trip to Hampden.
The Rangers boss responded with a double change, introducing strikers Jermain Defoe and Kyle Lafferty for Scott Arfield and Candeias in a desperate bid to salvage the tie.
But while Defoe and then Morelos both forced Lewis into decent saves, Aberdeen never looked likely to give up their hard-earned victory.
RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Worrall, Goldson, Barisic; Jack, Kamara (Davis 79), Arfield (Defoe 66); Candeias (Lafferty 66), Morelos, Kent. Subs not used: Firth, Katic, Halliday, Coulibaly.
ABERDEEN: Lewis, Ball, Considine, McKenna, Lowe; Shinnie, Ferguson; McLennan, Campbell (Gleeson 80), McGinn (Devlin 72); May (Wilson 83). Subs not used: Cerny, Stewart, Halford, Ross.