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Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Saturday, 16 May 2009 14:23 UK

Rangers 2-1 Aberdeen

By Andy Campbell

Graham Chambers and Stewart Dougal
Stewart Dougal (right) and Graham Chambers had an eventful game

Rangers moved top of the Scottish Premier League with a narrow victory over Aberdeen in a controversial encounter at Ibrox.

Both teams were reduced to 10 men in a scoreless first half, with Madjid Bougherra following Aberdeen's Charlie Mulgrew up the tunnel.

An own goal by Ricky Foster handed Rangers the lead on 66 minutes and Kenny Miller nodded in a quick second.

Michael Paton pulled one back for the Dons, whose European hopes took a blow.

The result takes Rangers three points clear of Celtic, who boast a superior goal difference by one and can reclaim top spot with victory over Hibernian on Sunday.

Aberdeen remain three points off Dundee United in the remaining Europa League qualification place.

The home side's attacking intent was evident in the early stages with Kyle Lafferty outstripping Javan Vidal and blasting a deflected shot wide before Kris Boyd failed to connect with a teasing Steven Davis centre.

Aberdeen were reduced to 10 men in the 17th minute when Mulgrew and Lafferty clashed off the ball following a challenge by the Rangers player.

Lafferty fell to the ground clutching his face and Stewart Dougal, who is due to retire from refereeing at the end of the season, dismissed the Dons player but video replays showed that Mulgrew had made little contact with the Northern Ireland international, who was booked.

Davis' shot was deflected against the post by Sasa Papac's back-flick and the full-back then had another effort blocked by goalkeeper Jamie Langfield.

Bougherra saw red five minutes before half-time for a challenge on Langfield, who required treatment after being caught by the outstretched foot of the Algerian defender.

Peter Pawlett almost marked his first Aberdeen start with a goal, Neil Alexander tipping the youngster's 20-yard drive over shortly before the interval.

Lafferty saw another effort deflected wide early in the second half and, minutes later, the forward could not convert Miller's cross.

Rangers continued to press and Miller's drive was blocked by Langfield.

Rangers striker Kenny Miller
Miller created Rangers' first before heading the eventual winner

Sone Aluko threatened to put Aberdeen in front with a shot that was claimed by Alexander.

Boyd and Mendes were replaced by Nacho Novo and Barry Ferguson, who made his first appearance since being deposed as Rangers captain.

And the deadlock was soon broken as Foster's attempted clearance from Miller's bending cross flew past Langfield and into the net.

Miller then took advantage of a static Aberdeen defence to head Novo's corner past Langfield in the 68th minute.

Langfield held an overhead kick by Novo before Gary McDonald wasted an excellent chance to reduce the deficit as his shot clipped the crossbar on its way over.

But substitute Paton did find the net for Aberdeen, receiving McDonald's cross and resisting the challenges of David Weir and Steven Whittaker before firing past Alexander with 13 minutes remaining.

Novo volleyed wide from Papac's deep cross and substitute John Fleck's drive was pushed away by Langfield as Rangers failed to equal Celtic's goal difference in the closing minutes.

Rangers manager Walter Smith:
"When you go into a game like this you obviously hope for more goals. They're tough games against all the teams, Aberdeen never make it easy for us anywhere.

"It was always going to be a game where we were happy to win it but obviously hope that we could get a few goals in the process.

"The way the game was being played, it stretched the game. We were going from one end to another so it always looked as though there could be a few goals in the game. It didn't turn out that way.

"What dulls us a little bit about today's result is the goal difference. We managed to win the game, we've got ourselves three points in front. Celtic have got that goal of a difference on us so we'll see how the games go."

Aberdeen manager Jimmy Calderwood:
"We've got a very good defensive record and I think we showed why today.

"I was very pleased with the first-half performance, I thought we dominated in midfield.

"In the second half, Rangers got in amongst us a wee bit. Barry Ferguson didn't score but he definitely got them playing a bit.

"They were two poor goals from our point of view, we were in the ascendancy at that moment. We lost one on the counter-attack and they got a corner and scored from another counter-attack.

"We came back to 2-1 and they were very, very nervous.

"We had a very young team. At the back, Scott Severin was absolutely outstanding."

Rangers: Alexander, Whittaker, Bougherra, Weir, Papac, Davis, Mendes (Ferguson 61), Edu, Lafferty (Fleck 81), Miller, Boyd (Novo 61).
Subs Not Used: McGregor, McCulloch, Dailly, Wilson.

Sent Off: Bougherra (40). Booked: Lafferty, Papac.

Goals: Foster 66 og, Miller 68.

Aberdeen: Langfield, Vidal (Maguire 83), Mair, Severin, Mulgrew, Pawlett (Duff 58), Kerr, McDonald, Foster, Aluko, Miller (Paton 64).
Subs Not Used: Bossu, Stewart, Clark, Ross.

Sent Off: Mulgrew (18). Booked: Vidal.

Goals: Paton 77.

Att: 50,295

Ref: S Dougal

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Aberdeen's Scott Severin 7.75 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Smith upset by red card decisions
16 May 09 |  Rangers
Dons to contest Mulgrew red card
16 May 09 |  Aberdeen
SPL as it happened
16 May 09 |  Scottish Premier
SPL photo gallery
16 May 09 |  Scottish Premier

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