Rangers left it late to ignite the fireworks which marked the club’s 150th year celebrations as Kemar Roofe’s winner over Aberdeen pulled them level with Celtic at the Premiership summit.
The Ibrox side had to wait until the Englishman bundled home nine minutes from time to begin their party after an afternoon where the points came before an uninspired performance.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side looked on course to drop crucial points but Roofe intervened after a risk-free display had the home support growing increasingly restless.
Alfredo Morelos rattled a 10th minute shot wide of target in the first moment of real threat from the Ibrox side in what was a grinding start to a game where Jim Goodwin’s plan was to press and restrict time and space for their hosts.
A poor delivery by Fashion Sakala in the 18th minute frustrated both Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent who were waiting to be served inside the Aberdeen box.
Sakala slashed at a deep Ryan Kent cross to squander a decent opportunity to test Dons keeper Joe Lewis in the 25th minute before Declan Gallagher went into the book moments later for a professional foul on Morelos as Rangers started to hit their stride.
The Pittodrie side were refusing their hosts time and space in midfield to pick incisive forward passes and the opening half hour had little to split the sides. Sloppy and lacking genuine quality, misplaced passes plenty and a killer ball nowhere to be seen from either side.
Vicente Besuijen did pose a problem or two as the most potent threat for the Dons but for the Dutchman but it wasn’t to last.
Then came the nearest thing to an opener as Morelos played in Kamara who’s low finish from an angle was deflected wide by Connor Barron for a corner and then had to show a decent pace to complete a recovery challenge on Besuijen who threatened to race clear.
Disjointed look to a Light Blue’s midfield which was badly lacking a creative spark as Aberdeen went toe to toe and were giving as good as they were getting. A lack of forward impetus, slow and far too safe was what Rangers were serving up and it was making the contest a difficult watch and led to a crescendo of booing as the fans made their feelings known as the referee brought 45 instantly forgettable minutes to a halt.
Sakala failed to direct a header on target seconds after the restart from a Borna Barisic cross as Rangers lifted the tempo.
More misfiring from Sakala brought groans and moans as he wildly fired over the top and then another cross of target in an increasingly wasteful display which prompted his removal from the action as Scott Arfield was introduced from the bench.
All hint of the sense of adventure which Aberdeen had shown had all but evaporated going into a final half hour of traffic all heading towards the away goal.
Ryan Jack registered a first shot on target in the 74th minute which was a stat which told a story on its own story before Roofe finally brought relief to Rangers by knocking home from close-range after Glen Kamara had delivered from the right to claim a result which was all about a win which didn’t set the pulses racing.
Too much standing on ceremony
Rangers once again failed to find a flow to their game and appear fearful when required to take the ball and be creative in front of their own fans.
Far too many easy and safe passing played into the hands of an Aberdeen side prepared to sit and soak up whatever came their way and they were rarely if ever genuinely threatened until Roofe’s late strike sealed the points.
It was looking like only a second blank for Rangers in 23 games for boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst until the Englishman bundled home from close-range but it only disguised an uninspiring performance across the side.
If the Light Blues are to retain their championship crown then it’ll have to be made known to the players that this standard won’t cut the mustard. There’s little swagger and that lack of confidence was written all over a display which lacked quality and will be a worry for a manager who will look beyond the three points and the victory.
Welsh superstar Aaron Ramsey’s running out of time to make his presence felt as his loan spell from Juventus is becoming one of interested spectators. Van Bronckhorst opted against bringing the midfielder off the bench despite the game crying out for someone of stature to take charge and become a creative influence.
It’s all starting to look like the gamble to bring the injury plagued playmaker to Glasgow isn’t going to pay-off and his much heralded role as a game-changing presence in the title race may well be beyond his physical capabilities. Rangers are crying out for a guiding hand and a midfield risk-taker and could do with his quality of him but again he was kept in reserve and questions are now shouting out about what, if any, influence he can be.
Terrible two-in-a-row for Dons
In a day of landmark occasions in Govan, Aberdeen made their own stamp in the record books by racking up a second ten game winless run of a dismal campaign. That said, the boss Jim Goodwin did a job on Rangers with an approach where he was clearly plotting to take a gritty point.
His trademark organizational skills had clearly been deployed all week with an approach designed to frustrate and force Rangers to find a way through their well drilled lines.
A greater sense of adventure may have brought an even greater dividend for the Dons against a side which looked under pressure and shorn of their usual Ibrox inspired invention. Vicente Besuijen once again looked a threat and capable of making a telling contribution for the remainder of the campaign.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.