Rangers blew their chance of putting pressure on Celtic despite a late James Tavernier penalty giving them a 1-1 draw against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
The Light Blues saw a chink of title light on Saturday when the cinch Premiership leaders drew 1-1 at home to Motherwell but they fell behind after just 11 minutes to a Bojan Miovski strike after the static Gers defence had again been exposed.
Any time Rangers did get through Dons keeper Kelle Roos and the Aberdeen crossbar – the Gers hit the woodwork twice after the break – provided a formidable barrier.
However, in the final minute of normal time, after being sent by VAR Andrew Dallas to check his pitchside monitor, referee Nick Walsh pointed to the spot, judging Aberdeen’s Stefan Garternmann had pulled Connor Goldson’s jersey at a corner.
Skipper Tavernier converted the spot kick for a draw which keeps Celtic eight points clear at the top of the table albeit the Hoops have played one more game than their Old Firm rivals.
Philippe Clement has gone eight games unbeaten since becoming Gers boss but he will feel this was an opportunity missed against the side they meet in next month’s Viaplay Cup final at Hampden Park.
Aberdeen’s convincing 3-1 win at Ibrox in September ended Michael Beale’s time as Rangers boss and former Gers striker and current pundit Kris Boyd had added spice to the game by saying Aberdeen players, who lost 6-0 to Celtic in their last outing, would raise their game against the Light Blues.
The home side, who had Slovenian Ester Sokler making his first league start with winger Ryan Duncan and midfielder Jamie McGrath back in the team, certainly started with purpose.
Defender Slobodan Rubezic’s header from a Leighton Clarkson free-kick was saved by Gers keeper Jack Butland who, moments later, brilliantly denied Sokler with his left foot, after the forward had been sent racing clear of the Gers defence by Clarkson.
Rangers had Jose Cifuentes making his first start under Clements with fellow midfielders Todd Cantwell also returning along with Brazilian striker Danilo but it was midfielder Tom Lawrence who came close to getting the breakthrough, his drive saved by Roos.
The Dons keeper was the initial architect of the route-one opener, his long clearance headed on by Sokler with North Macedonia striker Miovski this time running past centre-backs Goldson and Leon Balogun before confidently guiding the ball low past Butland.
Slowly Rangers came back and a Cantwell pass which sped across the Aberdeen goal in the 25th minute was begging to be tapped in before Roos saved Danilo’s close-range effort with his foot.
The Pittodrie number one then made a magnificent save from Balogun’s header from Abdallah Sima’s cross before grabbing John Lundstram’s attempt from the rebound.
At the other end, as the Granite City men rallied, Butland parried clear a powerful 25-yard strike from McGrath, the last real goalmouth action of the first half.
Roos made another decent block from Danilo’s angled-drive early in the second half as the visitors went in search of a leveller.
Rangers kept Aberdeen pinned in their own half for large spells but the Dons defended diligently although in the 73rd minute Lawrence cracked the Dons bar with a 30-yard volley before Balogun hit the bar with a header from close range.
The Govan side kept pushing and got their reward with Tavernier’s late penalty with substitute Sam Lammer missing a good chance to win it in added time when he headed straight in to the arms of Roos.
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