Fortune favours Rangers: Progressive Aberdeen deserved more as penalty call is main talking point

Rangers dropped points in the Premiership title race for the first time under Giovanni van Bronckhorst but could ultimately feel relieved it wasn’t all three they shed in a typically combustible meeting with Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - JANAURY 18: Aberdeen's Lewis Ferguson makes it 1-1 from the penalty spot during a Cinch Premiership match between Aberdeen and Rangers at Pittodrie, on January 18, 2022, in Aberdeen, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The Scottish champions finished the evening with 10 men after Ryan Kent’s foolish late dismissal for two quickfire bookable offences.

By that stage, Lewis Ferguson’s 73rd-minute penalty kick had cancelled out Ianis Hagi’s first-half opener for Rangers, which came immediately after the hosts had seen another spot-kick claim denied by referee Kevin Clancy when Ryan Hedges clearly appeared to be clipped by Allan McGregor.

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A share of the spoils was the least Aberdeen deserved. They were the more progressive side for most of the night against a Rangers side who struggled to find their rhythm and now find their lead over Celtic at the top of the table back to four points.

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - JANAURY 18: Rangers' Ianis Hagi makes it 1-0, beating Aberdeen goalkeeper Joe Lewis (right) during a Cinch Premiership match between Aberdeen and Rangers at Pittodrie, on January 18, 2022, in Aberdeen, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Had Aberdeen been given the opportunity to make the breakthrough from the spot at that contentious stage of the contest in the 20th minute, it would have been a reward for the vibrant start they had made.

They were sharper, more direct and carried greater urgency than Rangers in the initial exchanges in which their impressive Brighton loanee Teddy Jenks was prominent.

The rangy midfielder was desperately unlucky not to open the scoring in the seventh minute when, after smart build-up play from Ferguson and Hedges, his shot from around 20 yards clipped the outside of McGregor’s right hand post.

As Aberdeen continued on the front foot, Jenks forced McGregor into a decent save to the goalkeeper’s right before Dons skipper Scott Brown skied a long range shot from a promising position.

Rangers' Ryan Kent is sent off by referee Kevin Clancy.

Rangers, aside from a Kent shot easily gathered by Joe Lewis, had offered little in attack until the devastating counter-attack which gave them the lead after Aberdeen’s penalty appeal had been rejected by the officials.

Scott Wright, whose every touch was jeered by the home fans, picked out Kent with a fine crossfield pass from right flank to left. The English winger’s delivery across the six yard box picked out Hagi who had stolen a yard on Ross McCrorie to calmly steer the ball beyond Lewis.

A short pass back from Funso Ojo almost led to Rangers doubling their lead but Joe Lewis was off his line quickly to prevent Alfredo Morelos taking advantage.

Much of the play was disjointed, broken up by a succession of fouls from both sides, but it was Aberdeen who continued to produce most of the more effective work in the second half.

Brown, who volleyed just over from a Christian Ramirez knockdown, urged his side on as he dominated a midfield battle in which USA international James Sands made a decent enough debut for Rangers in testing circumstances.

There was no doubt about the penalty award which drew Aberdeen level as Ferguson’s header from a Jonny Hayes corner was handled by Morelos. Ferguson sent McGregor the wrong way from the spot.

Kent, booked for an off the ball spat with Hayes, collected his second yellow for an equally needless foul on Brown with seven minutes remaining.

Aberdeen (4-1-4-1): Lewis, Ramsay (Campbell 74), McCrorie, Bates, Hayes; Brown; Hedges, Ferguson, Jenks, Ojo (McLennan 68); Ramirez. Subs not used: Woods, Gallagher, McGinn, Emmanuel-Thomas, McGeouch, Barron, Kennedy.

Rangers (4-2-3-1): McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barisic; Sands, Kamara; Wright (Lundstram 64), Hagi (Sakala 78), Kent; Morelos (Itten 89). Subs not used: McLaughlin, Simpson, Bacuna, Balogun, McCann, King.

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