Celtic 1 Rangers 0
Report and pictures by Bill Heaney
Celtic came out on top of this hard fought match – but only just when Tavernier, the Rangers captain, missed an excellent chance to equalise in the 88th minute. Celtic were all over Rangers in the first half but there was free kick after free kick as both teams put the boot in to their opponents.
So strong were the challenges that referee Willie Collum had to work out how hard a player had been kicked, not if a player had been kicked, before he blew his whistle. Celtic had 75 per cent of the play to Rangers’ 25 per cent in the first half.
New manager Stevie Gerrard must have had a few stern words for the Ibrox squad at half-time and they moved higher up the park in the second half.
But that was their downfall.
There were loud appeals for a foul when Tom Rogic and Ryan Jack clashed 25 yards out from the Celtic goal during one of Rangers’ infrequent attacks.
Jack slipped and Rogic was off up the other end. At the edge of the Rangers’ box, he slipped the ball out right to James Forrest, who squared it to Nitcham, who hammered it past McGregor into the net.
Celtic deserved that goal. It wasn’t a foul as Stevie Gerrard claimed after the match and it was just desserts for Celtic, who hit the woodwork around the Rangers’ goal at least four times.
The best players on the park were goal scorer Ntcham, Brown and Forrest for Celtic and McGregor, the Rangers’ goalkeeper who should have been ordered off earlier in the game in which he played brilliantly and made save after save.
There were predictable skirmishes between Scott Brown and the Rangers’ striker Morellos. Referee Collum kept the lid on what was a match that could have flared up at any time.
Rangers, under Stevie Gerrard, were not as good as they were expected to be but they showed they are no longer a pushover for Brendan Rodgers’s Celtic or anyone else. Do not be surprised if they push Celtic down to wire for the Scottish premiership.