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The Independent Online
Rangers 1

Salenko 40

Aberdeen 1

Jess 28

Attendance: 45,427

IT WAS the sort of game which makes winter seem a worthwhile idea. Midfielders, bitten by the cold, chased to and fro in eager attack, passes skidded with speed across sodden grass and the gusting wind provided enough mischief to allow plenty of openings at each end.

The result was a vivid, warming draw, Eoin Jess's barn- storming opener being balanced by Oleg Salenko's point-blank header before half time.

The scoreline confirmed Rangers' best ever start to a Premier season but also the growing threat they face from the north, seen in the way the visitors short passing game overwhelmed them for long periods in midfield.

Despite the settled nature of the Aberdeen line-up which has brought cohesion to that area, amateurism and brilliance continues to provide a curious blend in their defence. Both qualities were evident at the outset. Twice within five minutes Salenko advanced up the corridor which Gary Smith and John Inglis leave between each other. Twice the Russian was foiled by dashing recovery tackles by each centre-back.

With Andy Goram injured, Rangers had their own nerves to contend with at the back. Minutes after Jess had bent a shot round Billy Thomson's post the keeper fluffed a clearance which struck Scott Booth's back. Paul Bernard patiently returned the ball to the box and Stephen Glass forced a corner.

If Bernard's reaction to the error had been mannered, Jess's was murderous when the keeper repeated his mistake. Thomson's lame clearance dropped to the midfielder inside the centre circle and the speed and control with which he drove forward took his opponents' breath. His finish, a straight drive from 30 yards, was winding.

With Paul Gascoigne thrown forward, Rangers' creative options were diminished and it was a more artisan midfielder who redressed the scoreline. A sweeping centre from Gordan Petric found Stuart McCall straining forward to force a reflex block from Theo Snelders. McCall's drive was undiminished, and a minute later he sprinted from deep to turn an Alexi Mikhailitchenko out-swinger back across goal. Salenko fretted little over McCall's apparently off-side position and nodded the equaliser.

With Aberdeen exchanging short passes, McCall's colleagues in defence appeared to tire. Joe Miller advanced and hit a long shot over the bar before Scott Booth wriggled inside the box to give Brian Grant space to have a shot deflected wide. Though the count of chances was even, Jess continued to throw the game's emphasis the way of Aberdeen. He popped forward to exchange brisk one-twos with the forwards on several occasions but was unable to produce the opening which would change the outcome.

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