‘We went out of our way to wind More­los up and it paid off for us’

Scottish Daily Mail - - Football - JOHN GREECHAN Chief Sports Writer

IF they though it would draw a red-mist re­ac­tion from Al­fredo More­los, you’d bet­ter be­lieve Aberdeen’s play­ers would still be mer­ci­lessly tar­get­ing the Colom­bian striker for treat­ment.

So com­plete has been the tem­per­a­men­tal trans­for­ma­tion un­der­gone by the Rangers star, how­ever, that in­dulging in the dark arts sim­ply doesn’t seem worth it any more.

Asked if he and his team-mates had de­lib­er­ately tried to pro­voke More­los in the past, Scott McKenna couldn’t con­ceal a smile.

‘Of course we did,’ replied the Dons de­fender. ‘The gaffer (Derek McInnes) was prob­a­bly wind­ing us up to make sure we wound him up. It worked a few times and it did ben­e­fit us.

‘His dis­ci­pline has def­i­nitely im­proved. It is some­thing we tar­geted last year. He seems to have tight­ened up on that as­pect of his game. Now it’s up to us to try to stop him scor­ing, that is our job.’

Three of the five red cards shown to More­los last sea­son came in head-to-head clashes with Aberdeen. Bait­ing the bear was an ob­vi­ous tac­tic that paid off.

Yet Scot­land cen­tre-half McKenna was also dis­missed in one of those en­coun­ters — a re­minder of the risks run when a con­test be­comes heated.

‘I tried to have a wee nib­ble back and I didn’t re­alise my feet were as high as they were,’ he re­called. ‘I got what I de­served. It was pure stu­pid­ity. I haven’t played against him this sea­son but I just need to con­cen­trate on my­self.

‘I have to make sure I’m not do­ing any­thing stupid or get­ting my­self sent off. I need to stay fo­cused to make sure they are not scor­ing. Rangers have play­ers all over the park who want to drag you out of po­si­tion to make space for oth­ers.

‘More­los will be do­ing the same to cre­ate space for Scott Ar­field or any of the other mid­field run­ners.

‘It is all about com­mu­ni­ca­tion and keep­ing your shape as long as you pos­si­bly can.

‘He’s a hand­ful the whole game and doesn’t give you a minute’s peace. Any time there’s a ball up to our de­fence he is al­ways there, putting you un­der pres­sure, be­ing a nui­sance and hold­ing the ball up. He is quick and strong, he has ev­ery­thing.’

Dis­ci­pline will be key for both teams at Pit­to­drie tonight although, if he was be­ing hon­est, Dons boss McInnes might not be too fussed about his play­ers pick­ing up a card or two.

That would be an im­prove­ment on their per­for­mance at Ibrox in Septem­ber when Rangers ran out 5-0 win­ners.

Steven Ger­rard’s side barely had to ride a tackle while do­ing so.

McKenna, who missed that mis­ery in Go­van, ex­pects this en­counter to be a re­turn to type for what is tra­di­tion­ally termed as a powderkeg fix­ture.

‘I don’t know how many games I have played against Rangers. But there have been very few when both teams have fin­ished with 11 men, whether it has been More­los or any­one else,’ he said.

‘Ryan Jack also got sent off in one of the games at Pit­to­drie. So it is im­por­tant we keep our dis­ci­pline and don’t get sucked into any­thing stupid. There has been a ri­valry for years and it boils over ev­ery now and again. We need to try to keep a lid on it.’

How­ever, McKenna ad­mit­ted McInnes had al­ready ‘warned’ his play­ers about the need to be more com­bat­ive than they have been against both Rangers and Celtic this sea­son, con­ced­ing nine goals with­out re­ply across two games.

‘We need to be on the front foot and far more ag­gres­sive,’ in­sisted the 23-year-old. ‘We need to impose our­selves rather than let them do what they want. We need to learn lessons from it. ‘We said that af­ter the Rangers game and it hap­pened in the Celtic game again (a 4-0 thrash­ing at Pit­to­drie in late Oc­to­ber). That is twice now — and we can’t af­ford any more lessons. We need to show we have learned our les­son and we know what we are do­ing.’ McInnes in­sists he’s far from sur­prised to see Jack be­come Ger­rard’s first choice in cen­tral mid­field. The Dons boss says the 27-year-old just show­ing the same qual­ity he did be­fore switch­ing from Pit­to­drie to Ibrox.

‘Jacko is the sort of player that would make any team bet­ter,’ he said. ‘I thought he was their (Rangers’) best mid­fielder — and I said that to Ste­vie as well.

‘He’s the type of boy who makes the na­tional team bet­ter and he makes Rangers bet­ter as well.

‘We made a con­certed ef­fort to build the team around him and, when Rus­sell An­der­son stepped down as cap­tain af­ter our first year, we made him cap­tain. I wanted to give him that added re­spon­si­bil­ity and he had our to­tal trust, play­ing on the edge a wee bit.

‘There was talk that he was a bit more de­fen­sive-minded for us, but that was maybe down to us hav­ing a side with Niall McGinn, Jonny Hayes, Kenny McLean, Ryan Christie and Peter Pawlett as well.

‘It’s no sur­prise he’s flour­ish­ing, play­ing along­side a lot of good play­ers as well. The ev­i­dence is there from Ste­vie that, when he picks his best team, Jacko is al­ways in it. That is tes­ta­ment to the boy.’

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