Rangers 5 - 0 Aberdeen: Ibrox side close gap on Celtic to a single pont

If this had been any sweeter for Rangers, it might have become liable for the sugar tax. The absolute towsing of bitter adversaries Aberdeen, delivered with panache to secure their biggest win in 15 years over a team that caused them such grief last season, would have been saccharine enough in itself.

Greg Stewart celebrates after scoring against his former club.

The fact it came hours after Celtic had drawn at Easter Road and so allowed Steven Gerrard’s men to move within a point and goal of the Scottish champions made it an occasion that really ought to have been sponsored by Tate and Lyle.

Especially with the added sprinkling that the reverse condemned Derek McInnes, rejecter of the Ibrox post close on two years ago, to his heaviest loss since taking charge at Pittodrie way back in March 2013.

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McInnes was forced to admit just how leaden footed, and frankly supine, his side were against “all-singing, all-dancing” opponents. His opposite number Gerrard conceded his men had a spring in their step after Celtic’s first dropped points in the Premiership this season. “I’m sure it gave the players a lift, I’m sure it did,” said the Rangers manager.

“But sometimes that can bring a little bit of complacency in and you can take your eye off the ball here. I’m very pleased that the players didn’t really focus on what was happening elsewhere and just got the job done here.”

There was only zest and vibrancy in the home performance in which everything worked to a tee for Rangers. First up, was the surprise inclusion of Greg Stewart, which fate decreed just had to result in him netting his first goal for the club against his previous loan team when he stroked in the 40th-minute second after Joe Lewis had brilliantly palmed a Scott Arfield header.

He then was brought down by Greg Leigh with 20 minutes remaining to allow James Tavernier to convert a second penalty of the encounter and firmly put behind him two misses from the spot this season.

There was also further evidence of Alfredo Morelos’ transformation from Mr Angry to Mr Movement against opponents whom he was shown three red cards last season, but yesterday ran ragged without any red-rag-to-a-bull moments. The Colombian started the rout by earning the first penalty of the two, despatched by Tavernier when tripped by Zak Vyner 18 minutes in, before heading in his team’s third courtesy of a pinpoint header from a pinpoint cross that Borna Barisic delivered in the 51st minute.

And then there was Steven Davis, who with such verve orchestrated from a midfield area wherein he rarely had a red shirt within yards of him he could have been wafting a baton. His man-of-the-match award was richly deserved. “I thought we were dominant all over the pitch. I’m sure there will be a debate over who is the man of the match, but I don’t think you have an argument against Davo,” said Gerrard. “He is in top form. His positional play is outstanding as is his energy.”

The only unexpected element was that the chancefest Rangers enjoyed didn’t bring more punishment for their visitors than five goals, the last the product of a deft chip from substitute Jermain Defoe after he had stolen in behind a static defence to collect a ball that looped up into his path.

Serious questions were asked of Rangers in the wake of their meek loss to Celtic on 1 September.

They have answered these emphatically with five straight wins across three different competitions, to set themselves up confidently for the trip to Berne to face Young Boys in the Europa League on Thursday. A tie where they will seek to build on the opening-game win at home to Feyenoord.

“Last year we were criticised for consistency and maybe not killing teams off,” said Gerrard. “We have absorbed all that criticism. We have tried to learn from it, to improve and the evidence today and the reaction we have had from the Old Firm is looking very good.”

The contrast with the situation facing McInnes could not be more stark. Aberdeen dropped down to fourth in the Premiership yesterday, and a stomach bug that counted out pivotal defender Andrew Considine only added to injury woes that left the Pittodrie manager to select a young squad that “played very young”.

Yet, following three wins in Glasgow over Rangers last season – two at Ibrox and one at Hampden that covered all three domestic competitions – McInnes refused to believe that the main title challengers of not so long ago are now destined to be consigned to the also-ran status forced on them yesterday each time they trek to Scotland’s footballing capital.

The 120 minutes plus penalties that preceded their League Cup quarter-final elimination at Hearts in midweek certainly left reserves low, but their issues run much deeper than fatigue.

“From when we lost the first goal, you saw the gulf in quality and experience at times,” McInnes said. “It was a good time for Rangers to play us, and a bad time for us to play them. If Rangers and Celtic are recruiting well and spending their money wisely, with their good managers in place, they will fight it out at the top. You could see Rangers are in a good place with a good manager.”