Evening Express

Dons come back to open league season with a draw against Gers

Referee Kevin Clancy shows Alfredo Morelos a red card following a clash with Scott McKenna. Picture by Darrell Benns

Aberdeen started the Premiership season with a home draw with 10-man Rangers.

The Dons had struggled for periods at Pittodrie, but kept pushing before substitute Bruce Anderson popped up three minutes into injury-time to rescue a point.

James Tavernier had opened the scoring for the Govan side from the penalty spot after half an hour, with Alfredo Morelos sent off only 12 minutes in to the fiery contest.

The Dons struggled to hit top form and failed to have a shot on target prior to the late goal.

The Reds made two changes to the side that lost 3-1 to Burnley after extra-time on Thursday in the second leg of the Europa League second qualifying round.

Tommie Hoban dropped out due to injury and Shay Logan was suspended after being sent off against Celtic in the final league game of last season.

Dominic Ball slotted in at right-back and summer signing Stephen Gleeson came into central midfield alongside captain Graeme Shinnie.

The first chance fell to the visitors when the Dons were cut open on four minutes. A long ball through from Connor Goldson had Jamie Murphy in behind the defence, but Joe Lewis raced out to smother the effort.

The danger still wasn’t over with Windass sending in a dangerous low cross which Scott McKenna cleared and the move eventually ended with Scott Arfield scuffing a low shot into Lewis’ hands from 16 yards.

After a frantic start to the game Rangers were down to 10 men after 12 minutes with Morelos sent off.

The Colombian appeared to kick out at Scott McKenna off the ball, it wasn’t spotted by referee Kevin Clancy, but linesman David McGeachie on the Main Stand side spotted it and made Clancy aware and wasted no time in brandishing the red card.

Following the dismissal Gerrard changed from 4-3-3 with Morelos leading the line to 4-4-1 with Josh Windass, son of former Don Dean, operating highest up the pitch.

With the numerical advantage Aberdeen were on the front foot with Lewis Ferguson and Shinnie trying to get forward in support of striker Sam Cosgrove.

On the half hour disaster struck for the Dons after dominating as they gave away a penalty and McKenna had to come off with what looked like a hamstring injury.

Rangers got into the penalty area and as Windass looked to get onto the loose ball he appeared to be hauled back by Ball.

Clancy pointed to the spot. Tavernier was delayed in taking the penalty because McKenna was down injured and had to come off with what looked like a hamstring problem, Chris Forrester came on.

But when Tavernier did get to take the penalty he buried it low into the bottom left corner.

The Dons had to reshuffle their defence after McKenna went off. Andy Considine moved into the centre of defence alongside Michael Devlin, Shinnie went to left-back and Forrester slotted into central midfield beside Gleeson.

It took the Reds time to regroup after falling behind, but just before half-time they offered a threat when Shinnie and Niall McGinn linked on the left, the latter’s curling cross would have been headed in by Cosgrove at the back post but for Allan McGregor’s acrobatics to touch the cross behind for a fruitless corner.

The Dons started the second half with more intent, but only a timely challenge from Ball stopped Arfield making it 2-0 just a couple of minutes after the break.

Derek McInnes made his second change seven minutes into the second period sending on Stevie May for Gleeson and going with two strikers upfront.

Around the hour Aberdeen had the Govan side pinned back but they couldn’t force a clear opening, despite a couple of dangerous deliveries from Gary Mackay-Steven and May.

As the second half wore the Dons continued to press, but they struggled to carve out clear-cut chances.

With 20 minutes left Devlin headed over Mackay Steven’s corner from the left and just after McInnes made his final change with youngster Anderson sent on for Sam Cosgrove.

The striker was in the action quickly glancing a header not far wide after Ball’s cross from the right.

Former Aberdeen skipper had to be replaced by Ovie Ejaria with eight minutes left after a strong challenge from May.

The Reds continued to push and with four minutes of the 90 left McGinn’s free-kick from the right was headed back across goal by Devlin before Ferguson glanced it just wide.

Ref Clancy added six minutes of injury-time and Aberdeen made great use of it with Anderson netting three minutes into the added time.

The ball was chipped into the penalty area by Devlin, Considine rose on the left side of the area and nodded it down for Anderson, who took one touch to control before firing a low left foot shot into the bottom right corner from 15 yards.

While it was only a point it was celebrated like a win by the vast majority of the 19,046 fans inside Pittodrie.

Aberdeen: Joe Lewis, Dominic Ball, Michael Devlin, Scott McKenna (Chris Forrester 31), Andy Considine; Stephen Gleeson (Stevie May), Graeme Shinnie; Niall McGinn, Lewis Ferguson, Gary Mackay-Steven; Sam Cosgrove (Bruce Anderson 71).

Subs not used: Tomas Cerny, Scott Wright, Dean Campbell, Ryan Harringtom.

Rangers: Allan McGregor, James Tavernier, Connor Goldson, Nikola Katic, Jon Flanagan; Ryan Jack (Ovie Ejaria 82), Lassana Coulibaly, Scott Arfield; Josh Windass, Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy (Ryan Kent 70).

Subs not used: Jak Alnwick, Umar Sadiq, Andrew Halliday, Ross McCrorie, Daniel Candeias.