Alfredo Morelos made a stunning return to form against 10-man Aberdeen as his double fired Rangers 22 points clear at the top of the Premiership.
While the Rangers captain, James Tavernier, failed to make it 10-in-a-row from the penalty spot, Steven Gerrard’s team claimed another huge result in their quest for title number 55 thanks to Morelos during the 2-1 win at Pittodrie. The Colombian has not been at his prolific best this term but he produced two finishes to win the game.
Tavernier should have put the runaway leaders ahead when Ryan Hedges was sent off in the 26th minute for fouling Morelos – but he nudged wide as he missed from 12 yards for the first time since October 2019.
But Rangers – who kicked off the season with victory in Aberdeen – did march on to their first Pittodrie double since 2011. Aberdeen remain third but will be disappointed they could not heap more pressure on the visitors during the final stages after Matty Kennedy pulled one back with 23 minutes to go.
Neither defence covered themselves in glory during a sloppy start to the game. Ash Taylor was first to switch off as he let a Tavernier ball sail over his head inside the first 30 seconds, with the Aberdeen defender grateful to see Morelos scuff his shot.
Rangers’ centre-backs were just as sluggish as Hedges’ punt forward was allowed to bounce through for Curtis Main. Sam Cosgrove raced on to the flick-on as Connor Goldson went to ground far too easily but he made a mess of his finish despite having only Allan McGregor to beat.
It looked initially as if both teams were setting up for an open, entertaining affair. Ianis Hagi fizzed one over the bar for Rangers while Scott Wright’s pace gave the hosts a threat down the left. But the league leaders soon found their rhythm and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.
Aberdeen had Jonny Hayes to thank as he booted a Ryan Kent effort off the line before Joe Lewis parried away Tavernier’s follow up. They should have fallen behind when Tavernier’s run of flawless spot-kicks came to an end. Morelos worked a clever one-two with Joe Aribo before bursting into the box. He prepared to shoot but Hedges clipped his heels from behind. The referee, John Beaton, sent off Hedges but Tavernier’s penalty went wide of the post.
But Tavernier played a key part as Rangers did lead five minutes later. Kent collected Tavernier’s low ball into the box before feeding Morelos. The striker took his chance to spin and drill a fabulous finish past Lewis.
Things almost got worse for Aberdeen just before the break as Main made a studs-up challenge on Borna Barisic. Beaton deemed it was a yellow but McInnes decided keeping the striker on was no longer worth the risk and immediately replaced him with Shay Logan.
But it made no difference to the league leaders who scored a second inside five minutes of the second half.
Again the threat came from the right as Aribo fed the ball into the penalty area. Another deft flick from Kent found Morelos and the 24-year-old drilled home his 10th goal of the season.
Aberdeen were allowed to grab a lifeline after 67 minutes as the Light Blues’ defence switched off. Cosgrove sent the ball down the right for Hayes, who cut back for the unmarked substitute Kennedy to slot home. That was the wake-up call Rangers needed as they carefully managed their way to a 15th straight win.
Alan Forrest came off the bench to fire Livingston to an eighth consecutive win under David Martindale. Forrest put Livingston ahead against Ross County and set up Jack Hamilton to seal a 3-1 victory. Scott Robinson gave Livi an early lead but Charlie Lakin levelled.
Celtic have confirmed that one of their players has tested positive for coronavirus after the club’s controversial training camp in Dubai. The squad was tested upon their return to Glasgow after spending six days in the United Arab Emirates.
A club statement on Sunday afternoon read: “Celtic today confirmed that one player has recorded a positive test for Covid-19. Clearly the player will receive all our care and full support. All other members of our squad, management team and backroom squad are negative.”
Celtic had already faced criticism over their warm-weather training camp, with Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, questioning whether they were complying with social distancing rules after photographs emerged on social media.
Celtic are scheduled to host Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership on Monday night.