25 Sep Maddison wins it for Dons
James Maddison’s stoppage-time winner ensured Rangers suffered a miserable return to Pittodrie as Aberdeen claimed a dramatic 2-1 Ladbrokes Premiership win.
The Ibrox side had not visited the Granite City in four-and-a-half years but the time had done little to quell the animosity between the sides.
The Dons support mercilessly lapped it up as winger Johnny Hayes stroked the home side ahead 22 seconds into the second half.
But the Irishman’s foul on Lee Wallace teed up Andy Halliday to level from the penalty spot with 13 minutes left.
Just as Gers thought they had claimed a point substitute Maddison curled home an unstoppable free-kick to send Mark Waburton’s team crashing into the bottom half of the table.
The week running up to the clash had been filled with scare stories predicting a return to the worst excesses of this fixture.
And those ominous predictions proved correct when the opposing fans had to be separated by a line of police and stewards as objects rained back and forth early in the first period.
On the pitch, Hayes returned to the Dons line-up after hamstring trouble.
Having registered back-to-back clean sheets for the first time this season, Warburton decided to stick with Danny Wilson and Clint Hill at the centre of his Gers defence.
But while the sight of 37-year-old Hill lining up should have been all the encouragement Aberdeen needed to go for the jugular, the Dons looked restrained.
They did have Rangers sprinting back into covering positions as early as the third minute when Graeme Shinnie slipped the ball in for Adam Rooney but Wilson’s clearing tackle was well-timed.
The visitors, meanwhile, looked assured in possession.
Mark Reynolds did well to get a touch on Joe Garner’s header as James Tavernier crossed from wide, while the Rangers right-back sent a free-kick into the Dons wall.
Garner came close again when a deflected strike off Shay Logan almost caught out Reds keeper Joe Lewis. The former Cardiff man pulled off a vital save though as he scrambled to his left.
Aberdeen’s first moment of sustained pressure ended with Kenny McLean being given space to shoot but Wes Foderingham did well to push it over his bar.
The Ibrox men continued to push in the moments leading to the break with Barry McKay whipping the ball just over the top.
Derek McInnes knew his side needed a spark as Aberdeen re-emerged for the second period and threw on Maddison.
But even the Reds boss could not have expected the breakthrough to come as swiftly – or as simply – as they netted almost straight from kick-off.
The restart was knocked back to keeper Lewis and from his long punt Rooney flicked on for Hayes, who raced away from the static Tavernier before coolly slotting past Foderingham.
It was a shocking defensive lapse but Gers came close to a quick reply as Martyn Waghorn nodded just wide from Halliday’s free-kick, while the striker’s next intervention was to blaze over from close range.
It was not going to plan for Warburton, so he sent for Niko Kranjcar and Kenny Miller, with the latter instrumental in the Light Blues’ equaliser.
Hayes ended up on the wrong side of Wallace inside the box as he ran onto Miller’s through ball and bundled the Ibrox skipper to the ground, with Halliday doing the necessary from the spot.
But just as the game looked to be heading for a stalemate Maddison came up with his moment of magic.
Tavernier was harsly judged to have tripped Hayes and Maddison ensured referee John Beaton’s error proved pivotal as he swept his stunning set-piece past Foderingham with the help of the upright.