Aberdeen were overrun by ruthless league leaders Rangers after they were devastated by injuries and a Covid house of cards outwith their control.
An injury problem turned into a selection crisis after the Dons lost two key players to the SFA’s coronavirus protocols following Ross McCrorie’s positive test while on Scotland Under-21 duty.
Connor McLennan and Lewis Ferguson were told to self-isolate as close contacts, while McCrorie was already unavailable for the trip to Ibrox against his parent club.
Dons boss Derek McInnes was furious at the impact the SFA’s protocols had on the team and has demanded assurances it will not be repeated following the 4-0 defeat.
Rangers had their own Covid-19 problems, with Jordan Jones and George Edmundson serving the first of their seven-match bans for breaking SFA coronavirus protocols.
Their absence was deserved, but McCrorie, Ferguson and McLennan missed out through no fault of their own.
Facing a Rangers team unbeaten in 20 at home was a tough enough proposition – doing it with so many players unavailable ramped it up substantially.
Jonny Hayes, Marley Watkins, Niall McGinn and Dylan McGeouch were already ruled out by injury before the Covid situation became clear.
And McInnes’ headache got even worse when in-form attacker Scott Wright was ruled out late on by a groin problem.
This was an opportunity for players to come in and stake a claim for a regular start.
They didn’t take it.
Regardless of the absences, the Dons should still have a team capable of competing with Rangers over 90 minutes.
This was Aberdeen’s first Premiership defeat away from home in 2020, and that was an impressive unbeaten record they never looked like extending in Govan.
Away from the pain of this defeat, they are third in the table and got off to their best league start in 20 years.
The heavy loss concluded a bad week for the Dons with chairman Dave Cormack warning a financial tsunami caused by the pandemic is set to hit Scottish football.
Those stark words came as the club announced an alarming operating loss of £2.9 million for the year ending June 30 2020.
Cormack predicts a bleak future if no fans can return soon, with forecasts suggesting Aberdeen’s income will fall by a further £4m this year to £10m, leading to a projected £5m loss. If Aberdeen supporters were looking for some relief with a victory at Ibrox, it didn’t come.
Bad luck and poor defending leaves Joe Lewis to pick ball out of net four times in 200th Reds game
Skipper Joe Lewis made his 200th appearance for the Dons, but it wasn’t a happy occasion as he conceded four times, two from wicked deflections.
He was also left badly exposed by his defence on several occasions.
The defenders, Ash Taylor, Andy Considine and Tommie Hoban, as well as Shay Logan, struggled with the rotation in Rangers’ forward line, while Considine was clumsy in hauling over Leon Balogun to concede a second-half penalty.
Matty Kennedy, however, put in a solid shift on the left against James Tavernier, showing plenty of willingness to get forward.
Lewis has been the club’s keeper since Theo Snelders in the ’80s and ’90s and underlined his commitment to the club by signing a contract extension until the summer of 2024.
Greg Leigh wasn’t sharp, nor is he a central midfielder
Greg Leigh made his first competitive start since breaking his leg in December while on loan at the Dons from NAC Breda.
The returning full-back was pitched in at centre-mid alongside Funso Ojo in the absence of Lewis Ferguson and Ross McCrorie.
There was no doubting his commitment, but his lack of sharpness was apparent.
Ryan Kent’s opener laid bare the impact of Lewis Ferguson’s absence
Rangers’ opening goal came when Ryan Kent was allowed too much space in the centre of midfield.
He nutmegged Ojo – something which summed up the Belgian’s afternoon – then wasn’t closed down and was allowed to drive across the pitch before unleashing a powerful deflected drive.
That’s the position Ferguson would have occupied and his aggression was sorely missed.
The Dons front two of Ryan Edmondson and Sam Cosgrove often found themselves without the ability to affect the game for long spells, but when they got it often stuck.
Cosgrove linked-up well with Ryan Hedges, the Dons’ best player on the day, on a couple of occasions.
The Welshman showed attacking intent, was quick and direct on the counter, and forced a good save from Allan McGregor before the break when the game was still in the balance.