Philippe Clement dropped points for the first time in the Premiership as Rangers came from behind to salvage a draw against Aberdeen.

Bojan Miovski opened the scoring for Barry Robson’s side inside 11 minutes and the Dons were on course for their second league win of the campaign over Rangers. It was not to be.

Stefan Gartenmann was penalised for a shirt pull in injury time and James Tavernier made no mistake from 12 yards to rescue a point. It was deserved for Rangers but far from what they hoped for.

Rangers fail to capitalise on Celtic slip

This fixture was always going to carry huge significance for Rangers. No match against Aberdeen can ever be written off, after all, but this felt like a big game long before events on Saturday afternoon. Celtic’s draw at home to Motherwell opened the door for Clement’s side. The Belgian had inherited a difficult situation when he replaced Michael Beale as manager but thoughts amongst supporters turned to a potential three-point deficit in the Premiership title race if Aberdeen could be beaten and their game in hand against St Johnstone could be won. That, of course, was always going to be easier said than done, and so it proved. Clement is not the kind of character to get involved in predictions or permutations and he would surely have warned his players not to get ahead of themselves at Pittodrie.

He will attempt to keep a sense of calm and perspective in the aftermath of this result. It was one which was inexcusable, though, and it poses further questions about the quality and character of this side after a huge opportunity was squandered. If Rangers are going to haul themselves into contention for the title this term, then results like this simply cannot be produced or accepted. It was a poor day at the office for Clement and one which has taken the momentum out of his impressive start in the dugout. Aberdeen stand between Clement and his first silverware as manager in the Viaplay Cup final next month. Time will tell just how damaging this is to his ambitions of landing the main prize this term.

Possession proves pointless for Rangers

Rangers returned to the away dressing room behind at the break. Clement’s side only had themselves to blame for that state of affairs after the concession of such a cheap goal and their profligacy at the other end. Rangers had their chances but couldn’t take them. Some of the openings – such as a flick from Tom Lawrence or a low effort from Danilo that Kelle Roos saved with his feet – were not exactly glaring but they were promising situations that weren’t capitalised on. The decision-making from Danilo could be questioned when he elected not to slip in Todd Cantwell after winning the ball on the edge of the area. Seconds later, Cantwell provided a teasing cross that was in the right corridor in front of Roos but wasn’t converted as Abdallah Sima checked his run.

The best chance was the one that fell to Leon Balogun after Rangers recycled a corner. Take nothing away from a fine stop from Roos but the Nigerian simply had to score as he connected with a Sima cross. There are no excuses for John Lundstram, either, as his follow up effort was held and Rangers saw a largely promising period of play fail to produce the goal that they needed before the interval. After the break, Rangers found a Dons side that had retreated. The visitors dominated possession and territory but clear chances were hard to come by as the clock ticked on. A speculative effort from Lawrence almost found the top corner and Balogun rattled the crossbar with a header. In the end, Tavernier salvaged something as he converted from 12 yards.

Defensive lapse costs Clement’s side

A record of four clean sheets from seven matches represented a decent return for Rangers in the first weeks of the Clement era. Within 11 minutes here, it was confirmed they would not add to their tally. There have been few glaring defensive issues under the Belgian and Hibernian, Sparta Prague, Dundee and Livingston were all kept at bay. Losing an early goal at home to Hearts and one at Hampden didn’t interrupt their domestic momentum, while nerves were held in the closing stages when Sparta travelled to Ibrox on European duty.

This was a different story, though. Few would have had complaints about Balogun partnering Connor Goldson, especially given that Ben Davies was not listed in the squad, for this Premiership fixture. The experienced partnership endured a difficult afternoon. The first warning arrived inside four minutes as Ester Sokler burst in behind the static duo. Both had Jack Butland to thank as he made a terrific save with his legs to deny Sokler. It was a moment Rangers didn’t learn from and one that Aberdeen looked to exploit thereafter. The opening goal arrived in similar circumstances as Sokler won the header from a long Roos pass and Miovski was sent clear.

Both Goldson and Balogun were posted missing and Butland couldn’t come to the rescue on this occasion. The finish from Miovski was composed and clinical.

The second half elapsed without Rangers really being troubled. If Aberdeen had shown more attacking intent, they would surely have caused their visitors more problems.

Work to do in the wide areas

The return of Rabbi Matondo was a welcome sight for the travelling support. That is a thought that few would have believed realistic for most of the Welshman’s Ibrox career. Matondo gives Clement another option in his forward line but he also leaves the boss with a problem to solve given that he is most effective in the area of the side where Sima has caught the eye this term. When Clement made his first switch of the afternoon, it was Sima who made way. Rather than going for two pacey, direct wide men to attack the Dons defence, Clement stuck with Cantwell on the right. That approach has had differing results in recent weeks. It has worked at times but it didn’t get the best out of Cantwell on this occasion and he found himself replaced by Ross McCausland at the same time that Lawrence made way for Sam Lammers.

It is understandable that Clement wishes to find a way to get Cantwell in the team but the right-sided role doesn’t make the most of his strengths. The fact that he was given a sarcastic round of applause from the home crowd – many of whom were upset at the way he went down under pressure in the first half – perhaps summed up a largely ineffective showing from the playmaker. That position is surely one that Clement will seek to address in the January transfer window. Before then, he has decisions to make over how to best utilise what he has.

More needed from Cifuentes

It is fair to say that this was an important afternoon for Cifuentes after a low-key start to his Rangers career. This won’t go down as the springboard for future success.

The loss of Ryan Jack during the international break was a problem that Clement could well have done without. The partnership between Lundstram and Jack has been impressive in recent weeks and the former Reds captain would have needed no explanation as to what awaited Rangers here. In time, Clement will have more options to fill the midfield berths. As it stands, Cifuentes was the only man who could come in at Pittodrie while Nicolas Raskin and Kieran Dowell remain absent.

Supporters were pitched the prospect of Cifuentes being a box-to-box midfielder when he made the anticipated move from Los Angeles FC in the summer. His time here has been interrupted by injury, but he has only shown flashes of what he can bring to the side when he has played. There would have been no better time for Cifuentes to really assert himself than at Pittodrie. It didn’t exactly materialise, though. The Ecuadorian was not outfought and outclassed. He was neat and tidy for most of a solid showing, one that was steady and unspectacular, but he didn’t influence proceedings in the manner that was required.