Scott Arfield’s injury-time brace saw Rangers snatch a thrilling 3-2 victory over Aberdeen to keep their fading title hopes alive.
Jim Goodwin’s men were on the verge of beating Ibrox in the league for the first time since 2016 until substitute Arfield scored twice in extra time.
Arfield scored in the 95th and 97th minutes, completing a remarkable turnaround and leaving Aberdeen stunned.
Earlier, a stunning free kick from Luis ‘Doc’ Lopez canceled out Fashion Sakala’s opener before Leighton Clarkson’s powerful shot gave the Dons the lead.
Arfield’s late tackle cut Rangers’ lead over Celtic to six points heading into their game at Livingston on Wednesday, with Aberdeen 14 points behind Ibrox in third.
Rangers scored a dramatic late victory
Aberdeen manager Jim Goodwin was widely criticized after his side’s defensive performance in a 1-0 home defeat by Celtic on Saturday and his side were keen to patch things up, making their way early into the Rangers box.
Despite this, the visitors were confident and purposeful in possession and the opener came after a one-two match between former Aberdeen midfielder Ryan Jack and Alfredo Morelos.
As the Colombian forward cut the ball to Sakala, Dons captain Anthony Stewart stopped his first unconvincing attempt from 12 yards out, but his second slotted home.
Aberdeen wavered and moments later Ibrox midfielder Malik Tillman sent Morelos into the box but his shot was saved by Dons goalkeeper Kelly Ross.
The hosts ran back and Richardson’s cross from the right from James Tavernier hit the post before Duke’s shot was deflected off a corner kick.
However, Aberdeen rallied and Duke’s pass from the left minutes later found Yilber Ramadan but the midfielder missed the goal from 16 yards.
Then came the equalizer, after Gears defender James Sands was booked by referee Willie Cullum for fouling Aberdeen striker Bojan Mijovski 20 yards from goal. Duke blasted the free kick over the wall and past a stumbling McGregor, who looked like he could have done a better job.
Aberdeen came out strongly from the second half and quickly took the lead. Scales’ cross into the box was tipped in by Sands but only for Clarkson, who sent a dipped shot from long range over McGregor and into the corner of the net.
Bill brought in Ben Davies, Scott Wright, Arfield and John Lundstram along with Skala, Sands, Jack and Glenn Kamara in an effort to bring the game back in the Rangers’ favour.
However, Govan’s men seemed increasingly disjointed and desperate.
On 76 minutes Arfield’s shot from 16 yards was saved by Ross before defender Ross McCurry cleared the loose ball to safety.
Aberdeen kept their work-rate up as Rangers dominated the closing stages, but the pressure paid off when Ross fumbled a 25-yard drive from Kent, allowing Arfield to shoot from close range – before the Gears midfielder rallied in the third moments later from six yards out. . to complete a noticeable transformation.
BILL: That’s a confidence boost
Rangers coach Michael Bell told Sky Sports that his new team still has a lot of work to do:
Pleased with the result. I will say 10/10 for the character, 5/10 for the performance.
“We were really worried and didn’t play well at all [after we went behind].
“I made four changes and Arfield came out winning. I’m happy for him because it’s hard for Scotty not to start in either game. But that’s what Scotty does, he gambles and goes into the box.
“I see a group that are not more confident, hopefully the last two wins give them that against third and fourth in the league. Away here is a tough game, and I felt they stuck together and crossed the line.
“We have some work to do, and it’s out there for all to see.”
Arfield: Big win
Scott Arfield spoke to Sky Sports after his dramatic late brace:
“Big mental week, two tough games away from home. It was important to start on the right note so getting the three points was massive.
“He (Bill) knows the ability we have, we may have gotten rid of it mentally.
“If you win the game in the first five minutes or if you win it in the last five minutes, it’s still the same three points.”
Goodwin: You haven’t experienced anything like that
Aberdeen manager Jim Goodwin told Sky Sports it will take some time to get over that late defeat:
“I’m devastated. It’s very hard to describe what just happened. The boys were excellent for the majority of the game. I thought we deserved not only to get something from the game but we deserved to win the game.
“Two late goals like that is unbelievable. I’ve never witnessed anything like this.
“It was very frustrating. It was a foul on the equalizer but it’s fair the goalkeeper has been phenomenal, not just tonight but all season. He’s been very unlucky, the ball bounces right in front of him and he just can’t make it stick.”
At 2-2 we must see the match [out]. We go into every game trying to win. I thought we played real hard, there was a real fight tonight. We scored two great goals. We had to make changes because the boys were running out of energy. They were dead on their feet.
“It will take some time to get over this.”
Rangers return to action this Friday at Ross County, live on Sky Sports. Kick off 7.30pm.
Aberdeen’s next match is away to St Mirren on Saturday. The start of the match is 12.30 pm.
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