Rangers took a seismic leap towards the Scottish Premiership title as 10-man Celtic’s defence crumbled further in a dramatic Old Firm derby at Ibrox.
A Nir Bitton red card and a Callum McGregor own goal within eight second-half minutes inflicted a potentially decisive blow to Neil Lennon’s hopes of his side clinching an unprecedented 10 titles in a row.
Celtic dominated the early proceedings, but now sit 19 points behind their peerless rivals going into the second half of the campaign.
Steven Gerrard’s Premiership leaders – who have yet to lose a league game this season – have played three matches more, but are now in a formidable position as their campaign goes into the new year.
The prelude to this one was compelling. Rangers on their best start to a domestic campaign since 1928, while Celtic – on a resurgent turn of form – clinging on to their 10-in-a-row hopes by their fingertips.
Yet on a day of great sporting consequence in Glasgow, there was more than a tinge of irrelevance to what was about to take place on the pitch.
Before kick off, Rangers icon John Greig and Celtic chairman Ian Bankier stepped into the crisp afternoon air outside the Bill Struth Stand to lay wreaths in memory of the Ibrox disaster 50 years ago to the day.
Sixty six Rangers fans tragically never returned home that day after being killed in a crush on Stairway 13. Nearly half of those who perished were under the age of 20.
When the football commenced, Celtic began as a team who knew their season potentially hung on its outcome. Sixteen points behind coming into this one – albeit with three games in hand – there was no margin for error in the face of a relentless Rangers.
Driven by Callum McGregor – captain for the day with Scott Brown dropped to the bench after starting the last 30 Old Firm games – Celtic looked insatiable as they marauded forward at will. In their way stood an inspired Allan McGregor who denied his namesake – who also whistled an effort just wide – early on, with Leigh Griffiths denied soon after.
Yet, it was an incredible one-handed save on to the post, hurling himself to his left to deny the latter once more, that made you think this was not going to be Celtic’s day.
Rangers appeared overwhelmed and on the back foot, yet half-time arrived with parity on the pitch. Celtic the better side, but crucially nothing to show for it.
Gerrard introduced Ianis Hagi for Kemar Roofe at the break and slowly Celtic’s hold weakened. Then came the crucial moment.
There were 28 minutes still to play when a ball was played down the Rangers right. Alfredo Morelos managed to turn Bitton 30 yards from goal, and the Israeli hauled him to the ground. Kris Ajer was attempting to cover, but a red card was shown, and Celtic wilted further.
Eight minutes later, the game was done. A whipped corner was flicked on by Joe Aribo. Celtic captain McGregor was caught out, the ball rebounding off his shoulder and beyond the bewildered Vasilis Barkas.
There was a meek response from Celtic, who introduced Brown and Mohamed Elyounoussi from the bench, the latter volleying on to the roof of the net.
Outside in the street, fireworks lit up the clear Govan sky as Rangers fans celebrated at full-time. There was no way back for Celtic at Ibrox. It is looking even harder to see it in the title race.
Man of the match – Allan McGregor
Rangers are back in action first, with a visit to Aberdeen next Sunday at 15:00 GMT. Celtic, who asked for their fixture against Hibernian to be postponed, host the Easter Road two days later, kick off at 19:45 GMT.
How to play
Rate players out of 10 throughout or after the game. The rater will close 30 minutes after the final whistle.
Rating range key = Give it up = Pure perfection
- 31BarisicBooked at 79mins
- 17AriboSubstituted forBarkerat 90+2′minutes
- 10DavisBooked at 39mins
- 25RoofeSubstituted forHagiat 45′minutes
- 20MorelosBooked at 75minsSubstituted forIttenat 77′minutes
- 14KentSubstituted forZunguat 87′minutes
- 6BittonBooked at 62mins
- 12SoroBooked at 41minsSubstituted forBrownat 72′minutes
- 17ChristieSubstituted forElhamedat 73′minutes
- 14TurnbullSubstituted forElyounoussiat 65′minutes
- 42McGregorBooked at 75minsSubstituted forRogicat 84′minutes
- 9GriffithsSubstituted forDuffyat 65′minutesBooked at 75mins
- Bobby Madden
Match ends, Rangers 1, Celtic 0.
Source Link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/55450349