Rangers 2-2 Aberdeen: Home comeback denies Dons amid emotional Walter Smith tributes


Rangers' Alfredo Morelos and James Tavernier celebrate
Alfredo Morelos and James Tavernier both scored for Rangers

Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers came from two goals behind to draw with Aberdeen in the emotionally-charged aftermath of Walter Smith’s death.

Home manager Steven Gerrard had urged his side to give a performance worthy of their legendary former boss.

But headed goals from Christian Ramirez and Scott Brown gave injury-hit Aberdeen an early lead.

An Alfredo Morelos header reduced the arrears and James Tavernier’s contentious penalty rescued a point.

It ensured Rangers are now unbeaten in nine meetings between the sides but have had their lead at the top reduced to two points, with city rivals Celtic now their nearest challengers.

A steady stream of wreaths, scarves and jerseys had built up into a mountain of tributes outside the gates of Smith’s beloved Ibrox since Rangers announced the sad news little more than 24 hours earlier.

The quiet contemplation, tears and grief of those emotions spilled over into tumultuous welcome for their present-day favourites as they unfurled flags and banners lauding the Rangers icon ahead of kick-off before descending again into a respectful hush for the minute’s silence.

The immediacy of the loss led Gerrard to leave goalkeeper Allan McGregor and midfielder Steven Davis on the bench, with the veteran duo having played under Smith.

Those that did start looked fired up by the occasion and Calvin Bassey immediately weaved his way into the box before forcing goalkeeper Joe Lewis to beat away his shot at the near post.

However, Aberdeen made the hosts pay for a lapse of concentration in defence and unmarked striker Ramirez headed in Ryan Hedges’ cross at the back post.

Rangers threatened an immediate reply against a makeshift defence with Brown at its heart, but it was the former Celtic captain who struck next, evading marker Tavernier to send a diving header home from a corner.

This time, Rangers’ response did produce a goal, captain Tavernier making up for his defensive lapse by sending in a curling free-kick that found the forehead of striker Morelos.

The second half was almost totally dominated by the home side, but they were looking increasingly frustrated until former Ibrox centre-half David Bates was adjudged to have nudged into the back of substitute Fashion Sakala and right-back Tavernier was his usually accurate self from the spot.

Rangers fans had unfurled a flag declaring “for deeds done and glories won, thank you”, but even their late managerial great would have been satisfied to escape with a point in such testing circumstances.

Man of the match – Scott Brown

Aberdeen celebrate
The Aberdeen captain (centre) not only scored but was a rock at the heart of the defence after being moved back from midfield

What did we learn?

It is difficult to make judgements given this was a one-off occasion, but Rangers continue to look more vulnerable than they were in striding imperiously to the title last season.

They avoided their first home league defeat since March 2020, a still impressive 25-game run. But, after a sequence of 21 wins, they have shed points in three of their last four Premiership outings at Ibrox and must now be looking worryingly over their shoulder at improving Celtic.

In contrast, Aberdeen appear to have turned their fortunes around, building on last weekend’s first victory in 12 games with a draw that again showed the battling qualities exemplified by captain Brown.

They even managed – twice – to do what they had failed to do on five previous visits and find the net at Ibrox.

What they said

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard tells Rangers TV: “Disappointed with the result, disappointed with the performance. Obviously gave ourselves a mountain to climb.

“We managed to take something from the game, but the performance was not good enough and that’s on me. Tonight, we forgot what we’re about and what we do and I need to fix that.”

Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass: “They are a really good team with really good players, so to get undone by a free-kick that doesn’t look like a free-kick and a penalty that doesn’t look like a penalty, I think that’s good for us.

“The boys put in a performance like that, the work-rate, effort and Rangers have a brilliant group of players, but we get undone with that and it is very disappointing.”

What’s next?

Aberdeen host Hearts on Saturday (15:00 BST) before Rangers visit Motherwell on Sunday (12:00).

Player of the match

BrownScott Brown

Rangers

  1. Squad number20Player nameMorelos

  2. Squad number33Player nameMcLaughlin

  3. Squad number25Player nameRoofe

  4. Squad number7Player nameHagi

  5. Squad number2Player nameTavernier

  6. Squad number37Player nameArfield

  7. Squad number26Player nameBalogun

  8. Squad number17Player nameAribo

  9. Squad number3Player nameBassey

  10. Squad number18Player nameKamara

  11. Squad number6Player nameGoldson

  12. Squad number23Player nameWright

  13. Squad number30Player nameSakala

  14. Squad number4Player nameLundstram

Aberdeen

  1. Squad number8Player nameBrown

  2. Squad number17Player nameHayes

  3. Squad number9Player nameRamírez

  4. Squad number15Player nameMcGeouch

  5. Squad number11Player nameHedges

  6. Squad number24Player nameCampbell

  7. Squad number2Player nameMcCrorie

  8. Squad number7Player nameWatkins

  9. Squad number19Player nameFerguson

  10. Squad number1Player nameLewis

  11. Squad number16Player nameOjo

  12. Squad number27Player nameBates

  13. Squad number23Player nameSamuels

Line-ups

Rangers

Formation 4-3-3

  • 33McLaughlin
  • 2Tavernier
  • 6Goldson
  • 26Balogun
  • 3Bassey
  • 17AriboSubstituted forWrightat 77′minutes
  • 4LundstramSubstituted forArfieldat 61′minutes
  • 18Kamara
  • 25RoofeSubstituted forSakalaat 77′minutes
  • 20MorelosBooked at 90mins
  • 7Hagi

Substitutes

  • 1McGregor
  • 10Davis
  • 15Simpson
  • 16Patterson
  • 23Wright
  • 30Sakala
  • 37Arfield

Aberdeen

Formation 5-4-1

  • 1LewisBooked at 86mins
  • 16OjoBooked at 22mins
  • 27BatesBooked at 81mins
  • 8Brown
  • 2McCrorie
  • 24Campbell
  • 17HayesSubstituted forSamuelsat 90+5′minutes
  • 19FergusonBooked at 21mins
  • 15McGeouch
  • 11Hedges
  • 9RamírezSubstituted forWatkinsat 62′minutes

Substitutes

  • 7Watkins
  • 10McGinn
  • 14Emmanuel-Thomas
  • 21Gurr
  • 23Samuels
  • 25Woods
  • 44M Longstaff

Referee:
John Beaton

Attendance:
49,760

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