A repeat of our opening match of the season, in terms of venue, opponent and indeed result, as we once again beat Aberdeen at Pittodrie to, eventually, extend our lead at the top of the table. The momentum of our sides form has been nothing short of spectacular and there was little doubt amongst the support that things would continue to roll along nicely, such is the confidence in this group and the management team, and it has been many a season since we have had that confidence for such an extended period of time. Our opponents did not surprise in the way they approached the game, overly physical with some utterly ridiculous challenges. But the first major incident came when Rangers were correctly awarded a penalty in the first half. The referee applied the rules correctly, even if some may wonder whether the rule itself is right, and as a result Aberdeen were down to 10 men. In a rare blip, the penalty was not converted, but with the man advantage it was only a matter of time before we did go ahead, and we did with a very well worked goal expertly put away. The other big moment of the first half was an absolutely ridiculous challenge which should have seen Aberdeen reduced to 9 men, but you get the strong feeling the referee decided to avoid reducing our opponents even further. The fact Derek McInnes subbed the “player” off after that, before half time, tells you all you need to know.
In the second half we grabbed a second goal with the same combination getting involved to stick it home. Strangely, from that point, our levels and intensity dropped and we allowed Aberdeen back into the game with them catching us on the counter attack, and their winger slotted the ball home to make the final stages of this game very tense for the supporters. But the numbers advantage was enough for us by the time the referee blew the final whistle, and the feel good train just keeps on rolling. Onwards to next Sunday, although having to wait a week to see our team play again is a bit of a bummer.
Here is how you rated our players after our 21st win of the league season.
Allan McGregor – 7.0 (7)
With the way that Aberdeen set up, there was a real possibility that McGregor was going to have a fairly busy afternoon. Given the way the game panned out his involvements were minimal, but as is always the case with our keeper, he had to be sharp to make a save in the second half, stretching well to parry the ball away. Aberdeen did get their goal, with the attacker wrong footing McGregor and slotting the ball passed him. Given the fact that is only the 6th league goal we have lost all season, and we are over halfway through the season, that is an outstanding record.
James Tavernier – 6.2 (7)
A missed penalty!? I could barely believe my eyes when Tavernier shot from the spot did not nestle in the net, as it is so unlike him to make such an error. If a goalkeeper makes a save then fair enough, but to miss the target altogether is not acceptable. He had an effort before the penalty that was well saved, but his reaction to the penalty was really good, he did some great work down the right hand side which helped set up the opener, and from there that seemed to settle him again and he was able to produce a good display. Some fans have been critical of him for the Aberdeen goal, but if you look at the turnaround of the move, his position is where we would expect him to be, and he should be covered by others. I place no blame on him for the lost goal, and he has been so consistent that he has plenty credit regarding the penalty miss. I would not look to change the spot kick taker yet.
Connor Goldson – 6.6 (7)
With the prospect of two target men to come up against, it was Goldson’s job to provide the physical opposition to their attack. An odd moment early on where he slid in far too soon, but thankfully the chance Aberdeen had was on the deck and as a result their striker skied it over. For the majority of the game the discipline of Goldson helped marshal our defence well, although his positioning for the goal we lose can be questioned, however he is far from the most guilty party in that situation.
Leon Balogun – 6.4 (6)
I find it interesting that we keep with Leon Balogun for now, despite the common consensus being that Helander is the more talented centre back. The athletic nature of his play does help our side, it certainly did last weekend, but the thing you almost need to sacrifice for that is that overall assuredness that Helander provides. I am not sure why he is so far wide on the left when Aberdeen break to score their goal. He needs to have better positional awareness in situations like that, especially when we are ahead as much as we are by that point.
Borna Barisic – 6.7 (6)
The crossing aspect of his game was not so present this game, overall you could use the word “subdued” for his day. His main contribution was being on the end of the ridiculous challenge from Main, which astonishingly was not given as a red card. “He won the ball first.” “He hardly touched him.” “You’re just bitter.” Shut up you absolute morons (who I am sure will be reading this as there is nothing better for you to do), anyone who cannot see that that is a red card is not worth taking seriously whatsoever.
Joe Aribo – 6.1 (6)
I am beginning to get frustrated with Joe again, and by the looks of it a lot of fans feel the same way. His pass that played in Morelos which result in the penalty was the best piece of play from him, so is still capable of providing that magic. But in terms of the work rate, I’m not sure that was there, especially when the game became a bit more gritty. He has been praised in the past for handling himself far better and being more solid in the middle, but one of the habits that frustrates so much is when he saunters around the park, and it is his lack of properly tracking back which costs us the goal in my opinion. He has to be far quicker in covering Tavernier when he is that far up the park and Aberdeen collect the ball. Our midfielders all need to work hard, as do all over our players. No one can coast, and there is a feeling that the last couple of games have seen Joe coast it a bit.
Steven Davis – 6.8 (7)
It would be easy to just copy and paste what has previously been said around Steven Davis and his performances of late, so instead let us talk about things in more of a legacy sense. If all goes to plan and we do secure the league title this season, then Steven Davis is going to go into legendary status for me. His importance in how we play in the centre cannot be understated. And having had the successes he has had with us before, and to have come back to help secure this next success, he will without question go down as one of the best midfielders of this modern era. And that, on top of his international achievements, is saying a lot for the man.
Glen Kamara – 6.9 (7)
Quality, control, doing the simple things. That is what you get from Kamara, and what we are now getting is a continued consistency in his performances. What a turnaround for so many of us. There is a group of players who will eventually move on for really good money, and Kamara could go down as one of the highest ever profits we make on a player.
Ianis Hagi – 6.6 (7)
A very dangerous shot in the first half that was dipping well and, had it been struck 5 yards further back, would have found the back of the net, was the only big moment to note from Ianis Hagi’s match. After that, his influence was overshadowed by the other attackers in the side, a bit of a reversal from previous weeks. An understandable choice to take him off at the late stage to shore up the side to see out the victory.
Alfredo Morelos – 8.5 (9) – Man of the Match
Aberdeen fans absolutely hate this man. They cannot stand him. They are consumed by hatred toward him. Apparently, any suggestion that Aberdeen players are thugs (following ridiculous challenges) are totally wrong because we have Alfredo Morelos. Well, he scored the goals that saw us win this game so stick that in your pipe and smoke it Dolly! He wins the penalty after being fed in the box and brought down when his leg was clipped. The opening goal is well worked and when he receives the ball, his left foot shot is straight and true, finding the back of the net. In the second half, his shot, again provided by Kent, this time with the right foot, and it was just as well hit. His ability with both feet is something well worth remembering, he does very well either side and when you look at his goal compilation, the variety really does speak for itself. A superb striking display, which can hopefully be the springboard for him to perform a lot better in the next phase of this season.
Ryan Kent – 7.8 (8)
Like Morelos, his game was much better here than recently. Two goals that were set up by the playmaker, the first being a smart pass on the D, the second a lovely flick back to Morelos. He had a shot that he took his time with and placed, the right thing to do in that situation, which was cleared on the line by the defender, and pressure looked off of him far more. He just wanted to play, and he is always far better when he is in that mood. A really hope that continues, as this would be a fine way to set up a run in the side and help continue to rack up those wins.
Bongani Zungu – 5.2 (5)
The habit of subbing on Zungu to see games out continues, and it is noticeable that fans of his back in South Africa are very much wanting him to start games now. All I can say to any who read this, patience my friends. Maybe not this season, but next season we will see him start a lot more in the midfield I am sure.