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Rangers smash Aberdeen to climb within a point of leaders Celtic

Rangers' Alfredo Morelos celebrates scoring his side's third goal
Rangers' Alfredo Morelos celebrates scoring his side's third goal

Greg Stewart scored his first Rangers goal as his team moved one point behind Ladbrokes Premiership leaders Celtic with a 5-0 thrashing of Aberdeen.

Rangers took full advantage of Celtic's lunchtime draw with Hibernian with an utterly dominant performance at Ibrox.

James Tavernier banished his penalty blues to hit a double from the spot and Alfredo Morelos headed his 13th goal of the season before substitute Jermain Defoe finished the rout.

Morelos was sent off three times against Aberdeen last season and Rangers only beat the Dons twice in seven meetings but there was no sign of trouble for the hosts in a completely one-sided encounter against injury-hit visitors.

Stewart, who had a second loan spell at Aberdeen last season, shone on his first league start since moving from Birmingham. The former Dundee player was a constant menace in a fluid attacking set-up along with Morelos and Sheyi Ojo.

Stewart was in for Glen Kamara while Niko Katic returned to the starting line-up as Filip Helander dropped out of the 18 following a difficult night at Livingston during Rangers' Betfred Cup victory.

Connor McLennan overcame a dead leg to start for Aberdeen but they suffered a late blow when Andrew Considine dropped out. Zak Vyner came into central defence.

The home side immediately got on the front foot. Connor Goldson saw a header saved and Morelos and Stewart were both off target from long range, while Ojo shot over after getting in behind the Dons defence and checking his run.

The breakthrough came when Vyner went in late on Morelos, giving Bobby Madden an easy decision to point to the spot.

Tavernier had pledged to keep taking penalties after missing two this season and the right-back sent Joe Lewis the wrong way in the 20th minute to add to the 14 spot-kicks he converted last season.

Rangers maintained their intensity and Michael Devlin soon cleared off the line after Ryan Jack had set up Morelos.

Lewis saved from Ojo and Scott Arfield after they were both set up by Stewart. The goalkeeper then touched Arfield's header on to the post in the 40th minute but Stewart was on hand to tap home.

The only time Aberdeen had threatened in the first half was when Lewis Ferguson and McLennan fired well over with ambitious efforts. And there was no change to the pattern of play after the break.

Stewart had a 20-yard strike saved before hitting the post from close range after Davis had found him with a lofted pass.

And Morelos headed the third from six yards after running on to a cross from Borna Barisic in the 50th minute.

Stewart continued to cause havoc, setting up Defoe and Arfield, the striker shooting into the side net and the latter seeing his effort diverted over by Greg Leigh at point-blank range.

The former Dons player then won the second penalty after being pulled down by Leigh as he attacked Tavernier's cross. The skipper again made no mistake to make it 4-0 in the 71st minute.

Stewart came close with two curlers and Defoe lobbed home Rangers' fifth and final goal with 10 minutes left after inadvertently being set up by Ryan Hedges.

PA

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