Rangers fans looking for small signs of a big difference from last year’s title disappointment need look no further than Ryan Kent’s ruthless start to the season.
The winger felt he was disturbed at Melwood last summer before the Liverpool man was cleared to leave for Rangers at a cost of £ 7million.
Formerly a successful Ibrox loaner, Kent was subsequently injured in his first game as a permanent signing in mid-September against Livingston and did not restart a league game until November 10.
Rangers kick off their Scottish Premier League campaign in Aberdeen
Ryan Kent’s first half (right) broke the deadlock for Rangers after being put through
Andrew Considine (left) was sent off in the 86th minute for a high tackle on Scott Arfield
If Rangers are to snatch the title from Celtic, Steven Gerrard will need his main players to live up to the bill he has given them over the past two seasons.
As the second most expensive signing in club history, Kent must deliver. It was a very pleasant start to the competition after a great pre-season from the 23-year-old.
Kent’s clinical arrival at 21 minutes sealed a winning start for the Rangers 24 hours before Celtic’s 10-in-a-row hunters started at home against Hamilton.
Gerrard needs game-winning goals in close games from someone other than Alfredo Morelos and Kent, who scored seven in the league last season, is gone for a flyer.
The match in Pittodrie was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic
Rangers boos Steven Gerrard will be thrilled to clinch a win on season opener
The rise in power had been dominated by problems with talismanic strikers on both sides.
Morelos, the subject of an offer from Lille expelled from Ibrox last week, has started for Rangers despite the latest transfer saga underway to follow the combustible Colombian.
With Jermain Defoe injured and no backup center forward yet, Morelos was supposed to have a straight head for the occasion.
At least there was no crowd to trick Morelos into luring the demon. Goalless throughout the preseason, his magnificent assist for Kent was an invaluable contribution.
Alfredo Morelos (left) started for Rangers in what could be his last game for the club
Aberdeen’s top scorer Sam Cosgrove was ruled out for three months with a knee injury, while his replacement Curtis Main also missed.
At least in Bruce Anderson there was a young man with a distance course and form.
Anderson scored a final equalizer in that curtain-raiser game exactly two years ago in Steven Gerrard’s first Premiership game in charge of Rangers.
Teenage striker Ryan Edmondson, on loan from Leeds United on Friday, replaced Anderson in the 64th minute
However, Derek McInnes decided to hand the ball over to Anderson as his men could neither contain nor keep up with a fierce Rangers pace throughout the first period.
A lack of creativity up front made the afternoon difficult for Derek McInnes and Aberdeen
Rather, that August 1-1 draw in August 2018 for Gerrard here had set the tone for Rangers’ problems to come in an attempt to overcome Celtic.
Morelos was sent off after just 12 minutes, a round repeated five more times in Premiership action since.
Yet it wasn’t just when Morelos was serving his many SFA bans that the Rangers struggled to break resolute defenses.
This problem resurfaced again in early 2020 after the winter break as last season’s title bid fell dramatically in February and March.
Ianis Hagi was a loan signing from Genk at the time, but Rangers have made his permanent capture for £ 3million a priority for the coming season.
Rangers’ Ianis Hagi has made his first game since moving to Glasgow permanently
He didn’t even have to touch the ball with one of his quick feet to impact the Rangers by taking a 21st-minute lead.
James Tavernier sparkled a ball up the field in his direction, but the Romanian adored Morelos who saw Kent make his move.
The superb pass gave the ex-Liverpool winger a break from Aberdeen’s defense with enough time to think about how to beat Joe Lewis. Low and clinical was the smart choice.
Kent walks away to celebrate after Scottish Premier League opener
The initial objective was only the reward of a dynamic and dominant opening. The Rangers grabbed possession and dragged the Dons around the field with them.
A 22-yard deflected Ojo drive was the only first-half test for Allan McGregor, a past comfortably with a secure clutch to his right on the rain-soaked ground.
Meanwhile, in front of the skipper of Pittodrie Lewis, the movement of Kent, Morelos and Hagi was full of threats. The same was true of the Joe Aribo en masse when he darted from a deeper line.
Lewis was smartly ready to rock Hagi’s crack 20 yards after Aribo’s strength and skill knocked out Aberdeen’s defenders. Again, a smart touch from Morelos in the build was key.
Ojos’ frustrations spilled over with a reservation for a reducer or foul on Hagi.
One can only imagine McInnes struggled to keep a lid on his complaints at halftime.
Chances were tight for Aberdeen with Funso Ojo (right) trying his luck
The two Aberdeen punters who had appeared on a crane passing between two stands to watch the action did not appear for the full 45 seconds.
Whether it was because of the police action or their own loathing for the action, they missed an improved Dons effort after the break.
Aberdeen nearly forced the ball over the line after a corner kick from Matty Kennedy caused a scrum at the back post. Referee Bobby Madden ended the run when Leon Balogun was pushed into the net instead.
The Rangers will be delighted with the effectiveness of Balogun’s debut alongside Connor Goldson.
Aberdeen’s best chance of the game came thanks to a second-half scramble
Leon Balogun (right) made his Rangers debut after joining Wigan Athletic this summer
The 32-year-old, fresh on loan from Brighton to Wigan, was signed after Nikola Katic suffered a long-term injury in training.
When McInnes pitched Edmondson to challenge the Rangers central defense, he certainly offered more of a Cosgrove-style threat with his size and strength.
But it was the Fab Four of Morelos, Kent, Aribo and Hagi who made the pretty designs on the other end that were nicer to look at.
An astonishing move involving the four resulted in Hagi’s drive deflecting Ash Taylor and whistling right off Lewis’ right post.
When Hagi bonded with Morelos again, old Colombian opponent Scott McKenna excelled at covering and taking part of the tied shot.
Morelos (right) proved to be a dangerous threat throughout the game and bonded well with Ianis Hagi
To confirm these are weird times, Morelos has completed the 90 minutes and Aberdeen’s Mr Nice Guy Andy Considine has only seen red for the second time in the past six years.
Rangers substitute Scott Arfield’s dangerous lunge was bad, however, and hampered Aberdeen’s late rally.
Indeed, Considine’s defensive colleague, Taylor, was forced to make one last slide down the line to prevent Aribo from doubling Rangers’ margin of victory in the dying moments.
Referee Bobby Madden did not hesitate to wave the red card for Considine
ABERDEEN VS RANGERS MATCH STATISTICS
Aberdeen (4-5-1): Lewis; Hernandez, Taylor, McKenna, Considine; Kennedy (sous McGinn 71), Ojo (sous Hedges 78), Bryson (sous Campbell 71), Ferguson, Hayes; Anderson (sous Edmondson 65)
Subs not used: Cerny, Logan, Hoban, McGeouch, McLennan
Carton rouge: Considine 86
Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic; Kamara, Jack, Aribo; Hagi (sous Arfield 77), Morelos, Kent
Subs not used: McLaughlin, Bassey, Edmundson, Helander, Murphy, Patterson, Barker, Stewart
Red cards: none
Arbitre: Bobby Madden
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