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Aberdeen suffer 2-1 defeat to Rangers in Neil Warnock’s first game in charge

The Reds had been level for much of the second half, only for Todd Cantwell to net the winner.

Aberdeen manager Neil Warnock uri. Image: 
Aberdeen manager Neil Warnock uri. Image: PA

Neil Warnock opened his Aberdeen reign with a narrow 2-1 defeat against Rangers at Ibrox.

After Rangers struck first through Rabbi Matondo on seven minutes the Reds were forced to withstand large spells of first half pressure until talismanic striker Bojan Miovski levelled on the stroke of the interval.

Although Warnock’s side succeeded in frustrating the home side, the Dons’ resolve was eventually broken on 73 minutes when Todd Cantwell struck on the rebound.

Rangers had Dujon Sterling red carded in the latter stages which offered renewed hope, however, Warnock’s men were unable to fashion a late response.

Graeme Shinnie tussles with Rangers’ Cyriel Dessers. Image: SNS.

The result sees the Reds drop to ninth in the Premiership, but the new Dons boss will see plenty grounds for encouragement as he approaches the remainder of the campaign.

Warnock revealed the lure of taking charge for such a significant fixture at Ibrox fast-tracked his arrival into the Reds hotseat.

As he approached his 20th managerial appointment, with a record 1,626 games in English football behind him, the 75-year-old was embarking on a fresh chapter north of the border.

With Rangers knowing a victory by a margin of three goals would move them to the top of the Premiership, it was the sort of underdog tale which eight-time promotion winner Warnock was always going to relish.

Aberdeen boss Neil Warnock. Image: SNS.

Warnock’s first team selection showed two changes from the side which drew 1-1 with Celtic on Saturday. There were recalls for Leighton Clarkson and Jonny Hayes, in place of Killian Phillips and Dante Polvara.

It was far from the ideal start for Warnock, after Rangers made the breakthrough on just seven minutes. A slip by Hayes cleared the way for Ross McCausland to aim a strike at goal which Kelle Roos could not keep hold of, with Matondo following up to hammer the rebound high into the net.

Rangers’ Rabbi Matondo celebrates his opener against Aberdeen. Image: PA.

Aberdeen’s first effort of note arrived on 19 minutes when Jamie McGrath relentlessly took command of a loose ball before working his way into the box, but his effort lacked enough purchase to trouble Jack Butland at his near post.

A fine chance fell to the Gers just after the half-hour mark when some neat play involving Cyriel Dessers and McCausland eventually led to an opening for James Tavernier, who prodded wide.

Matondo’s powerful strike was held by Roos, while Dessers struck wide on the turn, as it looked increasingly like the Dons would gladly take the one-goal deficit going in at the break.

In the blink of an eye the Reds were level, however, in the most timely fashion. Miovski timed his run to perfection to meet Connor Barron’s ball over the top, before showing strength to outmuscle Connor Goldson and slot past Butland to claim his 20th goal of the season.

Aberdeen celebrate Bojan Miovski’s equaliser against Rangers. Image: PA.

It brought the Reds unexpected parity which they looked to build on in the early stages of the second half.

Rangers lacked the same punch in the early stages of the second half, to the increasing frustration of the home crowd, while chants of “Neil Warnock’s Barmy Army” broke out from the visiting end.

The Dons had an opportunity to counter just before the hour mark when Leighton Clarkson was released down the right, but his lofted ball to the far post was just too high for Miovski.

Rangers began to up the pressure as the game reached the hour mark, with Roos making a fine stop with his feet to deny Lawrence in a crowded penalty box.

Warnock’s first change came on 70 minutes when a tired Hayes was withdrawn for Polvara.

The Dons were left trailing again three minutes later, however. Roos was once again unable to hold on to an effort, albeit this time a far more powerful strike from Lawrence, with Cantwell sharper off the mark than the defence to tuck home the rebound.

The Gers were reduced to 10 men with two minutes remaining when substitute Sterling was shown a straight red card by referee Don Robertson for a reckless lunge on Jack MacKenzie, which gave the Dons renewed hope.

Butland was able to hold on to the ball amidst a late stramash in which Miovski and Polvara both tried to find the net, with the Glasgow side holding firm to claim the victory.

Player Ratings

RANGERS (4-2-3-1): Butland 6, Tavernier 6, Souttar 6, Goldson 6, Yilmaz 7, Lawrence 8 (Sterling 75), Lundstram 7, Matondo 6 (Cortes 56), Cantwell 7 (Diomande 85), McCausland 6, Dessers 5 (Silva 56).

Subs not used: McCrorie, Wright, Barisic, King, Raskin.

ABERDEEN (4-2-3-1): Roos 6, Devlin 6, Gartenmann 7, Jensen 6, MacKenzie 7, Barron 6 (Barron 90), Shinnie 7, McGrath 6 (Duk 76), Clarkson 6 (Phillips 76), Hayes 6 (Polvara 68); Miovski 7.

Subs not used: Doohan, Sokler, Duncan, MacDonald, Milne.

Referee: Don Robertson
Attendance: 49,329
Star Man: Tom Lawrence