Aberdeen 2-0 Rangers: Liam Scales leads the way for rejuvenated Aberdeen

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Bojan Miovski scores for Aberdeen against Rangers
Bojan Miovski headed Aberdeen’s second in their 2-0 win against Rangers

At some point in recent weeks Liam Scales must have jumped through one of those portals you see in Marvel movies and entered the multiverse of footballing madness.

The haunted Aberdeen defender of before has been left behind amid the smouldering embers of all those losses under Jim Goodwin – the 4-0 at Tannadice, the 5-0 at Hearts, the 6-0 at Hibernian and the catastrophe that was Darvel, a loss that only feels like it happened in another lifetime.

Scales played in all of those. He bore the scars. He got sent off at 4-0 at Easter Road and as he made his way off he would have given Goodwin and owner Dave Cormack an almighty run for their money as the nation’s most miserable man. He could not have looked more at sea had he hired a boat and sailed off into the distance, back to his homeland on Ireland’s south-east coast.

That was then. This is now. The Scales we see now, alongside Angus MacDonald and Mattie Pollock, is a different person; utterly comfortable in a reconstituted defensive line that has not conceded a goal in an age, a trio that had the presence of nightclub doormen turning away Rangers players at every turn with a ‘not tonight lads’ vibe.

Scales did not just settle for playing a huge part in keeping Rangers out and extending Aberdeen’s run of clean sheets to seven, he also, of course, unlocked this pulsating contest down the other end with a goal from a mile out on the left.

In getting his cross so wrong, he got it absolutely right. For Aberdeen folk, the fact that it was Alfredo Morelos – a cartoon baddie in these parts – that he mugged in the preamble before launching his effort over the despairing Allan McGregor made it just about the most perfect goal. Pittodrie went berserk in that moment.

Aberdeen were 14 without victory against their Glasgow rivals. There was a lot of pain in those 14 games. A lot of angst.

So Scales set Pittodrie free. Barry Robson’s shrewd management set Pittodrie free. MacDonald and Pollock’s arrival set Pittodrie free. The turnaround has been surreal. A team that could not defend is now in a position where they cannot concede.

A chairman who sobbed on television when dismissing his last manager is in America recovering from serious surgery, drinking in this renaissance on his way back to health. A club that worried about getting sucked into the relegation vortex is now striding proudly and purposefully in third place, five points clear of the field.

Had you said in January, when Hibs put six on them, that this would happen then people would have backed away from you at ‘Duk’-esque speed. They would have talked about you behind your back. They would have instructed their children to steer clear of the strange man with lofty notions of Aberdeen’s short-term future.

When Scales scored he wheeled away with a look of a man who had realised he had won the lottery. Yes, it was lucky, but does it matter? Given the edge in this fixture, is it even sweeter to Aberdeen people that he did not mean it?

Impressive Robson keeps emotions in check

Truth be told, even before his goal Scales was having a terrific game in the face of 45 minutes of steady Rangers pressure but no Rangers goal. Some of the defending then, and later, was composed and classy. Some of it was scrambling and defiant. It was too much for Rangers. Too physical, too committed, too good.

The first goal was fortunate for sure, but the second was a peach. Leighton Clarkson’s sumptuous driven cross, Bojan Miovksi drifting off Ben Davies, an angled header, a stadium in uproar.

If you ask Aberdeen fans what the sweetest sound in the world, is the chances are you would be told that it’s the first cry of their new-born baby and the total silence of a Rangers support – not necessarily in that order.

They might consider adding the dulcet tones of Robson to that list. Did Robson whoop and holler in the aftermath? Not really. Did he shout about the victory to the press and get emotional about the achievement? No, again.

He was delighted but focused. He knew it was a big deal but he did not let on. To the cameras, at any rate, he was measured and focused on what’s next. In the way he’s fixed this team and the way he talks in the aftermath of fixing it. Robson is an impressive individual.

Michael Beale said the first goal was a freak and there was a foul in the build-up to the second. He said his team were wasteful – and they were. He said it was a horrible feeling – and you could not argue with that either.

This was a reality check for Rangers, a check on their progress and, perhaps, a lesson to talk less and deliver more. His assistant, Neil Banfield, said some things in the Sunday papers that reminded one of the perils of ‘bigging’ things up.

“You can see where he (Beale) is going,” he said of his manager. “You talk about Julian Nagelsmann, Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino. Micky Beale is not far off that. He reminds me very much of Arsene Wenger.”

If Beale, with no trophies in his brief time in football management, is not far off serial trophy winners in some of the biggest leagues in the world then Robson must be Pep Guardiola in waiting.

Loose talking did not cost Rangers. Loose finishing did. A rock-solid Aberdeen team did. A team transformed did. Scales and his outstanding side did.

They weathered everything that Rangers threw at them and came out smiling. The soft touches of the recent past must be a distant memory to their delirious support. The revival is the glorious unpredictability of football in microcosm. Positively trippy.


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