While Rangers didn’t quite manage to go outright top of the league this evening, Tuesday’s night’s epic very much lived up to the billing with goals, controversy and tension, and left Rangers, for the first time in over two years, at the summit of the SPL, trailing Celtic by just a single goal.
Whatever we might think of individual decisions by manager Philippe Clement (we’re bewildered at Rabbi Matondo being removed, and even the Wales winger himself looked baffled) it’s worked, hasn’t it?
Rangers got the critical 3 points, even despite the red card, and even could have got the couple of goals to go outright clear at the top.
But while that wasn’t to be, the 3 points really were, in the end, a massive achievement when down to 10 men.
Many will point at Connor Goldson’s appalling defending, beaten for positioning, pace, and pure power by Bojan Miovski, in a demonstration of what Ibrox Noise has been preaching for years, that when it comes to brute force defending, Goldson falls very short at this level.
That said, we do recall Leon Balogun also being beaten for pace and power at Pittodrie by the same striker, so Miovski is clearly a quality pro who has the measure of Rangers’ defence.
But being wasteful at the other end didn’t bail Goldson out as quickly as he’d have wanted.
Rangers managed 23 shots all night, 7 of them on target, but were undeniably profligate, with so many chances missed or flubbed – Ross McCausland had a very unproductive night, showing why he’s some way short at the moment of meeting the requirements of a Rangers winger at present.
Matondo? He was exceptionally dangerous, but a bit unlucky with some bad ricochets. He kept on getting the ball where it hurt, but often the final product wasn’t good enough. His decision-making could use some work.
And the rest of the team were guilty of laying off the match after about 20 minutes and letting the Dons off the hook.
The first 11-15 minutes were electric and Neil Warnock’s debut was looking like being a gubbing, but it didn’t materialise and as they had at Pittodrie and did v Celtic at home as well, the Dons contained then grew into the match.
Deserving their goal? Maybe, on some level they did. Goals are the currency of this sport and you have to score them to win.
But in the end it’s a goliath victory as Rangers won out thanks to two identical goals – distance shot, palmed away by Roos, and mopped up by first Matondo and then Cantwell.
That makes Celtic’s lead zero until at least tomorrow evening.
Win the game in hand and Rangers go 3 clear, although that lead will open and shut thanks to how the fixtures are currently configured. We’re not even sure exactly when the SPL will fully normalise with even fixtures all round.
But what we know is Rangers finally and deservedly top the table.
There is, however, a lot of work still to do.