Rangers have no reason to care that the return of Scottish football after 144 days was barely worth the wait. Perhaps the intensity – including from the stands – associated with a visit of the Ibrox club to Aberdeen made this Premiership opener appear even more low-key.
A Ryan Kent goal, scored during a dominant early spell for Rangers, was sufficient to seal three points. Steven Gerrard’s somewhat pensive reaction to Kent’s strike illustrated an awareness from the Rangers manager that nothing can be definitive at such an early juncture. Still, this was a potentially tricky test that Rangers passed pretty comfortably.
Aberdeen improved after the interval but without applying anything approaching serious pressure on the Rangers goal. The most menace from a player in red, in fact, was illegal in nature: Andrew Considine’s late lunge on Scott Arfield earned the veteran defender a red card.
The winning goal came in the 21st minute when Kent was smartly played through by Alfredo Morelos, with the former Liverpool player supplying a cool finish beyond the onrushing Joe Lewis. It maintained Rangers’ impressive run of scoring in 26 consecutive away matches in Scotland’s top flight.
Aberdeen’s attack was blunted by the absence through injury of Sam Cosgrove and Curtis Main. Bruce Anderson, deployed up front in their stead, spent the first half on the periphery of the game. Lewis saved well from Ianis Hagi as Rangers looked to press home their superiority.
Aberdeen’s second-half improvement doubtless owed plenty to some choice words from Derek McInnes during the interval. Allan McGregor, the Rangers goalkeeper, held a dangerous Matty Kennedy corner but was otherwise afforded a quieter afternoon than could have been anticipated.
Lewis again denied Hagi and Ash Taylor delivered a terrific block as Joe Aribo sought to seal the points for Rangers in stoppage time. Gerrard had to settle for a narrow success – one he would doubtless have taken before a ball was kicked.