- First meeting of the bitter rivals since January 2012
- Sub Maddison strikes stunning free-kick in 90th minute
- Andy Halliday penalty cancels out Jonny Hayes opener
- Only Aberdeen’s second win over Rangers in 14 meetings
- Rangers only scored seven league goals in as many games
JAMES Maddison’s stunning late free-kick gave Aberdeen a dramatic victory over Rangers in a pulsating first meeting between the rivals for almost five years.
After a first half lacking in goalmouth action, the returning Jonny Hayes struck 22 seconds into the second period with a composed finish for the Dons.
He turned from hero to villain for tugging back Rangers captain Lee Wallace in the box, allowing Andy Halliday to superbly convert a 79th minute penalty.
But, in the 90th minute, substitute Maddison stepped up to produce a sumptuous effort from 22 yards, which flew past Wes Foderingham into the top corner.
A third successive win in all competitions lifts Derek McInnes’s team up to second place – four points behind leaders Celtic, who came from behind to thrash Kilmarnock 6-1 on Saturday.
But Rangers boss Mark Warburton was furious with the award of the decisive free-kick – when James Tavernier was booked despite appearing to poke the ball away from Hayes – and angrily confronted referee John Beaton on the pitch after the full-time whistle.
It leaves the Gers seventh in the table with nine points from seven league games – in which they have conceded the first goal in five of them.
But despite a respectable display and his side boasting 63 per cent possession, Warburton must be concerned as their winless run in the Scottish Premiership stretches to four games.
Nevertheless, it was a fantastic spectacle for the neutral – featuring nine yellow cards – as a long-awaited first meeting since January 2012 saw one of Scottish football’s most bruising rivalries renewed.
As predicted, there was a frantic and fast tempo to the opening exchanges in front of a near full house at Pittodrie, with both sides – who reached the Betfred Cup semi-finals in midweek – taking time to settle into a rhythm.
Harry Forrester’s shot deflected behind by Anthony O’Connor before an Adam Rooney effort at the other end was blocked by Danny Wilson – illustrating both sets of defences were on top in the first period.
The first flashpoint took 10 minutes to arise when Joe Garner took offence to a foul on him by O’Connor, but referee Beaton handled the situation well, reminding them in no uncertain terms who was in charge.
A lack of control early on was emphasised by Garner’s needless sliding challenge on Hayes, which earned him a yellow card.
The ex-Preston striker made his presence felt throughout and he should have done better when heading Tavernier’s delightful cross over the crossbar on 17 minutes.
Rangers – backed by almost 2,000 fans for their first trip to the Granite City since 2011 – enjoyed 61 per cent of possession in a first half during which they were increasingly dominant.
Tavernier’s free-kick from 20 yards couldn’t a way past the Aberdeen wall before Joe Lewis was required to make an excellent save, scampering across his goalline after Garner’s wayward shot looped up off Shay Logan’s foot and was bound for the bottom corner.
Jason Holt – on his 50th Rangers appearance – rifled a half volley straight at Lewis after Garner missed his kick from Tavernier’s cutback before Barrie McKay curled off target on his right foot.
Aberdeen sat deep for long periods and struggled to carve out any kind of chances, with a Kenny McLean drive tipped over superbly by Foderingham the closest they came.
But after a first half lacking in goalscoring opportunities, the second period exploded into life as the Dons – who introduced Maddison for Peter Pawlett at the interval – drew first blood in no time at all.
A simple long ball forward by Lewis was flicked on by Rooney into the path of the onrushing Hayes, who easily escaped the Rangers defence to slot underneath Foderingham.
The Gers mustered a positive reply as Halliday’s free-kick flashed across the face of goal and drifted wide, before Wallace fired over from range but an effective end product continued to desert them.
Waghorn, fresh from a hat-trick against Queen of the South on Tuesday, then scooped over inexplicably from six yards after McKay’s cutback caught Garner by surprise.
Aberdeen largely offered a sporadic threat on the counter thereafter but remained a solid unit to thwart the Gers, who sent on Niko Kranjcar and Michael O’Halloran in place of Forrester and Waghorn.
Hayes got clear again down the left and his low effort was denied by Foderingham at the near post, after the Dons soaked up a sustained period of pressure.
But the Irish winger was at fault after bringing down the marauding Wallace, who was released in behind by substitute Kenny Miller.
It gave Rangers fan Halliday the chance to step up and send Lewis the wrong way from the spot, for his second goal in as many games.
From then on, Aberdeen pressed for a winner and, as the end of normal time approached, 19-year-old Maddison supplied it in dramatic fashion with the deadliest of free-kicks – surely a goal of the season contender.
Rangers desperately tried to respond but time was against them as they suffered their second league defeat of the season, while the Dons recorded a first win over the men from Govan since 2009.
Aberdeen 2 (Hayes 46′, Maddison 90′)
Rangers 1 (Halliday 79′ pen)
Substitutes: Maddison (on for Pawlett 45′), Burns (on for McGinn 78′) and Taylor (on for Rooney 90+1).
Not used: Alexander (GK), Storey, Storie, Stockley.
Booked: Hayes, McLean, Shinnie, Reynolds, O’Connor
Substitutes: Kranjcar (on for Forrester 63′), O’Halloran (on for Waghorn 69′) and Miller (on for Garner 77′).
Not used: Gilks (GK), Hodson, Senderos, Dodoo.
Booked: Garner, Wilson, Kranjcar, Tavernier
Referee: John Beaton – 7/10
Assistant referees: Dougie Potter and Andrew McWilliam
Fourth official: Don Robertson
Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes:
“It was a sensational winner. The players fought hard for that. First half, I was really annoyed with how we played. Getting the [Jonny Hayes] goal gives the players that belief and confidence to go and get the win. They [Rangers] get a lifeline with the penalty kick. Wee James [Maddison], what a free-kick. We should be shouting from the rooftops with how good that is. We deserved the three points.”
Rangers boss Mark Warburton:
“We dominated the ball first half completely but went in at half-time frustrated it was 0-0. We gave away a schoolboy goal and for three or four minutes we looked a bit rocky. We lost our composure then got the ball down, then played. We got our rewards via the penalty and I thought there was (only) one team in it. I said to (assistant) Davie Weir we’d be frustrated to only get a point here when we have come and delivered a really good performance. I am never happy to drop a point, never mind three. I will be careful what I say about the free-kick. Everyone saw the ball move. The fourth official on the sidelines saw the ball move and made a comment. And yet a free-kick is given.”
Rangers striker Joe Garner told the club’s official website:
“We’re obviously very disappointed. I think the first half we played very well and over the last couple of games we have played well but we need to start picking up points now. You could say that we dominated or that we were the better side but that happens in football. We just have to try to take our chances and be positive.”