AN exasperated Steven Gerrard admitted he was finding it increasingly hard to stick up for his players after they saw red for the eighth time this season against Aberdeen - just 24 hours after a team meeting on ill discipline. Not only did the Rangers manager claim Alfredo Morelos had little excuse after being sent off by Steven McLean for two bookings during the 1-0 defeat which saw Rangers leapfrogged at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table to Kilmarnock, he insisted second half substitute Kyle Lafferty might have seen red too, the Northern Irishman escaping censure for a swinging elbow which saw Aberdeen central defender Scott McKenna require stitches when he was already on a booking for a silly lunge on Shay Logan.

Morelos, whose second booking came just after the hour mark for catching Graeme Shinnie with a forearm across the jaw, levelling the teams up with ten men apiece after the first-half dismissal of Aberdeen’s Sam Cosgrove, now misses Rangers’ next two games, away to Dundee and then home to Hamilton.

“Morelos’ first yellow for me is a little bit soft but it was probably a foul,” said Gerrard. “The second one he deserves. But it's not important – we've got another red card which is hugely frustrating.

“And we could have had another one. Lafferty is on a yellow card but he is giving a foul away and gives another – you're leaving the referee with an opportunity to make it nine.

“I’m concerned about it,” he added. “There is only so much I can do. I’ve made it very clear they are not helping themselves. They are making their task a lot more difficult. They are putting more stress on each other, on their bodies. We miss key players for important games. It’s very difficult for me to back them and protect them because 24 hours after a team meeting about controlling discipline, it’s very tough for me to take right now.”

“In terms of the result, we have no complaints,” he said. “The performance as a group wasn't good enough to beat Aberdeen, even at 11 v 10 the performance wasn't good enough.

“I never felt once today good about anything that we did, individually or collectively. I give the players so much praise and they have done extremely well before this game, we were in a really good place. But today is certainly a big set-back and a frustrating one.”

Derek McInnes praised his players for the resilience they showed just three days after the setback of losing the Betfred Cup final to Celtic but insisted he felt harshly done by when it came to the dismissal of Cosgrove, whose second yellow came for showing his studs as he contested a high ball with Connor Goldson.

"Obviously Sunday was a disappointing result for us but I was pleased with a lot of the aspects of the game," said McInnes.

“I have seen the red card again and it confirms what I thought at the time,” he added. “Cosgrove gets the first touch. The ball goes into the Copland Road behind the goal. It was a coming together. I don’t think it was a foul to anyone, if anything it was a foul to us. To deem that a yellow card, having the boy already on a yellow card, I find it astonishing that he has been sent off for that. He won’t be getting fined. He has nothing to be sorry for. But his team-mates dug him out tonight. [Graeme] Shinnie, [Lewis] Ferguson and [Dom] Ball all put in one-and-a-half performances. That gave us a chance to get the job done.”