RANGERS opened the 2020/21 Scottish Premiership season with a controlled and thoroughly deserved win over Aberdeen this afternoon.
Ryan Kent’s first-half goal was the difference between the two sides – with Gers dominating throughout and limiting the home side to very little in front of goal at Pittodrie.
It was just the start the Light Blues were looking for to build on a strong pre-season, and sends them to Germany for their UEFA Europa League last-16 tie with Bayer Leverkusen in fine fettle.
Boss Gerrard handed central defender and Nigerian international Leon Balogan a debut start alongside Connor Goldson following his arrival from Wigan Athletic last week.
It was Goldson actually who made the first chance for Gers inside five minutes – his vision allowing him to play a super ball over the top, and but for an unfortunate bounce on the sodden turf, Ryan Kent would have latched onto it to go one-on-one with Joe Lewis.
It was a fast-paced start all-in from Gers though as they took almost total ownership of the ball while playing some really neat, intricate football – the fitness, tactical and technical work that has been put in over pre-season really coming to the fore.
The possession Rangers had was always going to lead to further opportunities – and not only did it produce them, it also led to the opening goal of the match on 25 minutes.
Playing out from the back, James Tavernier found Ianis Hagi, who flicked the ball well onto Alfredo Morelos just over the halfway line.
He spotted the run of Ryan Kent to his left going clear of the Aberdeen defence, with the Colombian finding his teammate superbly.
Kent still had plenty to do – but he kept his composure as he closed in on the imposing figure of Lewis to simply pass the ball beyond him and into the back of the net.
It was undoubtedly a deserved opener for Gers – and they came close to adding to it soon afterwards with Lewis doing well to hold onto a wicked Ianis Hagi snapshot from around 20-yards.
Gers’ ball-winning across the park was superb – and it meant Aberdeen really at no stage were able to get a grip on proceedings.
Morelos himself came close with an effort from the edge of the box which just slipped wide – but 1-0 is how it remained at the interval with Gers by far the better side.
Ianis Hagi had an early effort in the second half slip over the bar at the end of a lightning Rangers break forward.
There was concern at the other end for Balogan – in being fouled by Scott McKenna as he defended a corner, he cracked his head off the post, but was passed fit to continue following treatment from the Rangers medical staff.
McKenna at the other end did well to deflect a goalbound Hagi effort from 25-yards wide for a corner, while Ash Taylor got a block in on a Morelos close-range effort when Hagi did superbly to slip him in.
With four minutes to go, Aberdeen were reduced to 10-men with Andy Considine sent for an early bath following a hefty lunge on substitute Scott Arfield.
Ash Taylor cleared a Joe Aribo effort off the line in injury-time – but Gers saw this match out with minimum fuss to claim a hugely deserved three points on opening day.
It’s on then to Leverkusen and the huge but exciting test in the Europa League.
RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Hagi (Arfield, 77), Jack, Kent, Aribo, Kamara, Morelos, Balogun,Barisic.
SUBS NOT USED: McLaughlin, Bassey, Edmundson, Helander, Murphy, Patterson, Barker, Stewart.
ABERDEEN: Lewis, Hernandez, Taylor, McKenna, Considine, Ojo, Ferguson, Bryson (McGinn, 70), Hayes, Kenendy (Campbell, 70), Anderson (Edmondson, 65).
SUBS NOT USED: Cerny, Logan, Hoban, McGeouch, McLennan, Hedges.
REFEREE: Bobby Madden