Aberdeen 0-1 Rangers: Ryan Kent scores Premierships first goal of season

Ryan Kent got the winner at Pittodrie with a clinical side-foot finish into the corner

Rangers got the Scottish Premiership season under way with a surprisingly comfortable win over Aberdeen thanks to Ryan Kent’s strike at Pittodrie.

There was little evidence of the much-discussed intense rivalry between the sides until home defender Andrew Considine was sent off late on.

The hosts looked particularly subdued by the requirement for empty stands.

In a match of little goalmouth action, Kent calmly curled the ball home from Alfredo Morelos’ 21st-minute pass.

The former Liverpool winger’s strike was no more than Rangers deserved given their almost total domination of the first period.

Morelos’ participation amid interest from Lille dominated the pre-match talk, but it was the absence through injury of Aberdeen strikers Sam Cosgrove and and Curtis Main that was most significant in the early stages.

Young stand-in Bruce Anderson was superbly marshalled by a central defence into which summer signing Leon Balogun slotted imperiously to leave lively Aberdeen support man Craig Bryson a frustrated figure.

Rangers controlled possession without threatening a goal until a clever chest flick from Ianis Hagi found Morelos on the half-way line and the striker slipped it neatly through for Kent to beat goalkeeper Joe Lewis one on one.

It took the home side 28 minutes to force Allan McGregor into an easy save from Funso Ojo – and 59 to win their first corner – before Considine’s straight-leg challenge on Scott Arfield damaged their chances further.

Without displaying the intensity of a side desperate to prevent Celtic securing a 10th consecutive league title, Steven Gerrard’s visitors had done enough and it took a fine goal-line clearance from Ash Taylor to prevent Joe Aribo extending the lead in the closing minutes.

What did we learn?

Could the Premiership be mirroring the experience in England, where the Covid-19 enforced absence of fans appeared to favour the away sides?

Certainly, Aberdeen lacked that extra spark of menace required to trouble the visitors until Leeds United loanee Ryan Edmondson came on. The 19-year-old appears to have the physical presence required to compensate for the absence of Cosgrove.

Gerrard and his players have bemoaned last season’s tendency to fade after impressive starts to matches and the Rangers manager’s concern could continue despite this victory.

On the plus side, former Wigan Athletic centre-half Balogun looks like a shrewd acquisition. On the down side, Morelos rarely looked like preventing his run of competitive games without scoring extending to eight.

Man of the match

Joe Aribo continued where he left off in pre-season, impressing with his touch and footwork at the heart of Rangers’ midfield

What did they say?

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes: “Rangers controlled the game early on, but I thought we finished the first half better, got closer to them, got our distances better for pressing and, in the second half, it felt like a game.

“I thought the level of performance was decent, in the second half in particular, and we just needed to work the goalkeeper more.”

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard: “It’s a marker for us because all eyes were on us today in the first game. When the fixtures came out, everyone was saying, ‘Oh, it’s Aberdeen away, will they drop points?’

“Aberdeen ran us all the way to the end, so we’ll go away pleased at picking up three points and getting a clean sheet. We have to build on this now, but no one will get carried away.”

What’s next?

Aberdeen head to Perth to take on St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park next Saturday, and Rangers host St Mirren a day later. But before that, Gerrard’s side will look to overcome a 3-1 Europa League last-16 deficit against Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday in Germany.

Some found a novel way to watch the match at Pittodrie

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