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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Rangers edge out Dons
Ronald de Boer headed home Rangers' first goal
Aberdeen 2-3 Rangers

Rangers came from behind to pick up maximum points in an incident-packed game at Pittodrie.

Aberdeen, who battled manfully but could not match the quality of their opponents, took the lead through David Zdrilic and grabbed some late consolation through Eric Deloumeaux.

But goals from Ronald de Boer and Mikel Arteta put Rangers in front by half time and Michael Mols added another.

However, Rangers' joy will be tempered by the injuries that forced Peter Lovenkrands, de Boer and Henning Berg to leave the field prematurely.

Rangers had a tight grip on the early proceedings and the Dons defence was struggling to cope with the pace and trickery of Lovenkrands and Mols.

Despite the champions' dominace, there were few clear-cut chances although Aberdeen keeper David Preece had to look smart to smother a shot from Christian Nerlinger.

Summer signing Henning Berg made his debut for Rangers in the absence of the injured Craig Moore and the Norwegian defender was found wanting when Aberdeen took a surprise lead after 24 minutes.

A long ball over the top allowed Zdrilic to outpace the former Blackburn centre half and although the Australian forward shot straight at Rangers keeper Stefan Klos a fortuitous rebound saw the ball ricochet off his head and spin into the net.

The home side went close to doubling their advantage a few minutes later when Scott Booth was inches away from connecting with a low ball across the face of the Rangers goal from Darren Mackie.

Rangers were made to work hard by Aberdeen
Lovenkrands was carried off the park in the 34th minute after an awkward fall and was replaced by Steven Thompson.

Rangers were back on level terms seven minutes before the interval when a vicious 25 yard free kick from Michael Ball struck the woodwork and the rebound fell to de Boer, who nodded the ball home from six yards.

And six minutes later Arteta struck to put Alex McLeish's side in front, following some terrible defending from the home side.

Four Dons players surrounded Mols inside the penalty box, but the Dutchman was allowed to slip the ball to his Spanish team-mate, who curled an angled shot past Preece from 10 yards.

Minutes after the re-start there was an ugly incident when a fan ran on to the pitch and aimed a kick at Rangers full back Fernando Ricksen, but the police intervened just in time to halt the attack.

Rangers' early season injury worries continued when De Boer was replaced by Paolo Vanoli early in the second half.

But Mols increased the visitors' lead in the 58th minute when a clever turn on the edge of the penalty box gave him space to fire in a low shot, which found the corner of the net despite Preece getting a hand to the ball.

Zdrilic looked to have almost snatched a goal back for Aberdeen when his header from a corner kick grazed the underside of the crossbar but the striker had been penalised for pushing.

Rangers went close from a counter-attack that saw Vanoli cut the ball back for Nerlinger but a lunging tackle from Markus Heikkinen thwarted the danger.

The Ibrox casualty count grew when Berg limped off and Bob Malcolm came on.

Mols squandered a golden chance when a Ricksen cross found him bearing down on Preece just ten yards out, but his shot was stopped by the keeper.

Malcolm then blasted a shot wide from a promising position.

Aberdeen continued to press forward in search of goals and their efforts were rewarded in the dying stages when substitute Deloumeaux's header was judged to have crossed the line despite a clearance from Arteta.

Aberdeen: Preece, Hart, Anderson, McGuire, McQuilken (Clark 77), Mackie (McNaughton 65), Tosh, Heikkinen (Deloumeaux 78), Sheerin, Booth, Zdrilic.
Subs Not Used: Hutton, Hinds. Booked: Anderson, McGuire.

Rangers: Klos, Ricksen, Berg (Malcolm 75), Khizanishvili, Ball, Arteta, Ferguson, Nerlinger, Lovenkrands (Thompson 34), Mols, de Boer (Vanoli 55).
Subs Not Used: McGregor, Hughes. Booked: Ball.

Attendance: 16,348
Referee: M McCurry

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