Michael Beale found himself under the spotlight again as ragged Rangers crashed to a 3-1 cinch Premiership defeat to Aberdeen at Ibrox.
Four wins in a row without conceding a goal following a damaging 1-0 home loss to Celtic had given the Gers boss some breathing space but defender Stefan Gartenmann scored his first Dons goal after 38 minutes, with the home side booed off at half-time.
A high-tempo Gers start had given way to another plodding, disjointed, one-paced performance and Dons midfielder Jamie McGrath added a second in the 68th minute before Light Blues’ half-time substitute Scott Wright was sent off three minutes later for picking up a second yellow card from referee Steven McLean for a foul on Gartenmann.
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Abdallah Sima reduced the deficit for the 10-man home side from close range in the 75th minute but Dons defender Jack MacKenzie scored a third in the 85th minute to seal a deserved three points for Barry Robson’s men.
The result piles added pressure on Beale, who may be entering his final days in Govan with his side already seven points behind league leaders Celtic.
The boos that rung out at the end from the home fans who had stuck around told its own story.
An added-time Celtic winner at Motherwell earlier in the day had reminded the Ibrox crowd just how difficult it was going to be for the Light Blues to reduce the gap and even so early in the season that looks unlikely.
MacKenzie, Leighton Clarkson and Dante Polvara all came into the Aberdeen side but in a high-tempo start to the game, Gers striker Cyriel Dessers, in for injured Kemar Roofe, missed a great chance in the fourth minute when he ballooned a pin-point pass from skipper James Tavernier over the bar from 12 yards.
Midfielder Sam Lammers then shot wide from the edge of the box before attacker Sima headed a Jose Cifuentes cross past the near post.
In the 20th minute Aberdeen keeper Kelle Roos made a fine save from Dessers’ close-range header.
Despite Rangers having almost total control, the home fans became increasingly grumpy, their mood not helped when Cifuentes missed a Tavernier cross right in front of goal.
And when Gartenmann, on a season-long loan from Midtjylland, escaped to the back post unmarked to knock in Clarkson’s corner from the left, the mood among the Light Blues supporters got worse.
Wright replaced Ryan Jack and Ridvan Yilmaz made way for Borna Barisic for the start of the second half as Beale looked for a route back amid growing anxiety.
In the 52nd minute Roos parried a low Barisic drive but inside a packed Dons penalty area the visitors scooped the loose ball away to safety.
Aberdeen were growing in confidence and, at the other end, striker Bojan Miovski headed a Clarkson cross against the post.
There was little fluency or tempo about Rangers and there was worse to come following a few seconds of pinball inside the Gers box, with Rangers players blocking various attempts before McGrath hammered the ball past keeper Jack Butland.
It was all going wrong for Rangers and former Aberdeen player Wright, booked earlier for a tackle on MacKenzie, saw yellow again for a foul on Gartenmann.
The depleted Light Blues were handed a lifeline when Sima slotted in from close range after Cifuentes had poked a loose ball back across the goalmouth but MacKenzie soon restored the two goal lead – confirmed after a long VAR check – when he drove in off the bar after Aberdeen again had the Gers defence in disarray.