Rampant Rangers make mockery of Aberdeen's pre-match bravado as animated Giovanni van Bronckhorst has reason to smirk

It is a wonder that someone hasn’t had a go at Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s haircut over the past couple of weeks.

Rangers' John Lundstram celebrates scoring the second goal against Aberdeen.
Rangers' John Lundstram celebrates scoring the second goal against Aberdeen.

The Rangers manager seems to have been assailed about every other facet of his existence. As the Ibrox side’s domestic form has faltered and the Champions League has proved a killing field, his temperament, tactics, and even demeanour on the touchline have all been picked apart.

There seemed a belief that this would all culminate in the last rites on his 11-month tenure being applied by a resurgent Aberdeen in Govan. Instead, with the Dutchman doing his dinger as he darted up and down at the side of the pitch – maybe the demonstrativeness his detractors were calling for – his team led their Pittodrie rivals a merry dance for an utterly comprehensive 4-1 victory in the cinch Premiership. An outcome achieved even after a sluggish spell that followed some early sparkle resulted in Connor Barron giving the visitors a 21st minute lead. A calamity of errors as Duk was able to twist Leon King every which way in the penalty area before going to ground under a challenge from James Tavernier, who chose to protest his innocence as the ball broke to Connor Barron to bash it high into the net.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The goal seemed to place Rangers in a right pickle. Only for them to slice and dice Jim Goodwin’s side. They did so by stepping up their intensity and tempo. This infused their play with a vibrancy they could not muster in toiling at Ibrox recently in the scraped draw with Livingston and scraped Premier Sports Cup success over Dundee. From the moment approaching the half hour that John Lundstram picked out Malik Tillman out wide right and he slide across for Antonio Colak to tuck away his 14th goal season they were a team transformed. And a team with which Aberdeen simply could not live.

James Tavernier scored for Rangers and missed a penalty.

Much was made of the form of Goodwin’s men but they have now only won two of their past six league games. Rangers, in contrast, boast five out of six on that measure. There has been cross-pollination in assessing the vulnerabilities of Van Bronckhorst’s side. The thought that their heavy defeats by Liverpool and Napoli can be the seeds of their downfall on the domestic front. These exist in wholly separate ecospheres. Only three weeks ago, Aberdeen were thumped 4-0 by Dundee United, for heaven sake. The Pittodrie men were fortunate that four goals were all they eventually leaked at Ibrox, with the contest so one-sided for the closing hour.

It took Rangers two minutes into first half added time to claim a lead they passed up a host of opportunities to secure earlier. A shot from Tavernier drew an acrobatic block from Kelle Roos before a Ben Davies cut back allowed Lundstram to ram in from close range. Rangers third came only seven minutes into the second period, with Tavernier both the creator and finisher. The Rangers captain swept the ball out right to Borna Barisic – introduced only eight minutes in as the result of Ridvan Yilmaz suffering a hamstring strain – and was one hand to power in a header at the ball post when the full-back returned the compliment by delivering a looping cross into the area.

Tavernier then blotted his afternoon by striking the post with a penalty awarded after VAR involvement following what looked like the ball simply striking the hand of Jayden Richardson from close range. Instructed to have a look on the pitchside monitor by VAR official Willie Collum, referee Nick Walsh pointed to the spot after doing so, but the incident wasn’t one to cause any post-match froth when Rangers proved so rampant. A ridiculous number of clear sightings of goal were squandered by Rangers before an 85th-minute fired-in Fashion Sakala right-flank cross took a defection en route to being turned in by substitute Alfredo Morelos close in. The inevitable VAR check delayed celebrations but the Colombian eventually was able to take his bows – by then having already had an effort chalked off by VAR during a mere 10 minute run-out.

Even before a ball had been kicked in the encounter, it was impossible not to be fascinated by Goodwin’s chutzpah in his approach to it. Bullish hardly begins to do justice to his effusive bigging-up of his new and improving Aberdeen team and his talking down of Rangers in their current state. It was a transparently deliberate attempt to embolden his players before confronting a team their club hadn’t posted a win against in 11 meetings. And one that carried the risk of being mocked by reality … as proved to be the case in the most painful manner imaginable. Yet, even in his radio interview approaching kick-off, he continued to warm to his theme that an in-form Aberdeen had nothing to fear. Not when injuries had contributed to the home line-up containing a smattering of young players that weren’t used to winning all the time with the club, he said. The Irishman had done his homework on that one. He rattled off that King was 18, Yilmaz 21, James Sands 22 and Tillman 20.

Aberdeen's Connor Barron opened the scoring at Ibrox.

However, in citing such inexperience and tender years, Goodwin set aside the reason such players were adorned in Rangers colours and not those of Aberdeen. It is that they are on a higher level, with the chasm between the two teams akin to the one the Ibrox men have been on the wrong side of when it comes to the Champions League. Reports of Van Bronckhorst’s impending demise would appear to have been exaggerated.