The Rangers bolstered their status as a dominant team in Scotland with a complete and entertaining 4-1 win over 10-man Celtic at Ibrox, moving within two games of an Invincible League season.
In a crazy seven-minute stretch of the first half, Mohammed Elyounoussi hit Celtic’s crossbar, before Rangers took the lead thanks to the neat finish from Kemar Roofe. Callum McGregor was then sent off for a second booking in preparation for the goal.
Celtic immediately equalized thanks to Odsonne Edouard, but Alfredo Morelos quickly restored the champions’ lead with a lightning finish.
Roofe scored his second shortly after halftime to give Rangers a breather, but David Turnbull, Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer and Elyounoussi all fended off good chances for Celtic which would have set up an exciting finish.
Instead, Jermain Defoe came off the bench late to add a fourth injury time for his debut Old Firm goal, as the Rangers rubbed salt into the fallen champions’ injuries.
As Steven Gerrard’s side will confirm an unbeaten league campaign – and perhaps hit the 100-point mark – if they avoid loss to Livingston and Aberdeen, Celtic must quickly focus on appointing Neil Lennon’s replacement. . Having started the season seeking a historic tenth consecutive title, they instead suffered the ignominy of not beating their rivals in a campaign for the first time since 1999-2000.
How the Rangers rejected their Old Firm rivals
With the title sewn on for a long time and both sides of the Scottish Cup, it had been one of the most disappointing builds for an Old Firm game in living memory, but the game more than made up for it.
The visitors started off brilliantly with promising forays down the left flank that ended up coming to naught, with Jack Simpson – making his derby debut in the heart of the Rangers’ defense – starting with confidence to face danger.
- Steven Gerrard made two changes. Jack Simpson made his Old Firm debut alongside Kemar Roofe. Filip Helander is injured, while Ianis Hagi fell on the bench.
- Celtic also made two changes. James Forrest and Kristoffer Ajer returned to the XI, while Nir Bitton and Ryan Christie fell on the bench.
Celtic had dominated early exchanges on the last two trips to Ibrox, only for Rangers to show a clinical touch when it mattered. It appeared that this game could follow a similar pattern as the champions came off following a mistake by Jonjoe Kenny; Tavernier’s delicious cross was placed on a plate for Morelos, only for the Colombian to make a mistake as Kenny dove past him.
Simpson was booked after a harmless clash with Edward, before McGregor joined him five minutes later after stopping Kent’s progress, but the game lacked the spiciness or bite normally associated with these matches – then out of nowhere he exploded in life.
Elyounoussi took possession of the ball in midfield and advanced unchallenged, before unleashing a powerful shot that was tied to the goal, only for Allan McGregor to get a finger on it to deflect it off the crossbar. Moments later, Celtic received a double blow while falling behind.
The Rangers worked in space 40 yards from goal and Kamara slipped a ball before being eliminated late by McGregor. Referee Nick Walsh played the lead as Aribo passed from the left, Kent sent the ball towards the goal and Roofe passed the ball past Scott Bain. As the Rangers celebrated, Walsh produced a second yellow card for McGregor and Celtic were, for the second time at Ibrox this season, a lightweight man.
It was a period of play that summed up Celtic’s disappointing season, but they responded immediately. The Turnbull corner was returned to goal by Ajer, and Edouard was the quickest to respond in the six-yard penalty area, nodding despite Davis’ desperate efforts to clear the line.
The game was now wide open. Aribo forced Bain to make a good save at his near post, before Edward blocked Goldson’s header. Still, Rangers quickly regained the lead thanks to Morelos and his first goal at Ibrox against Celtic.
Welsh’s clearing header was picked up by Kamara who fed Morelos on the right edge of the penalty area. He was lucky enough to cut Brown’s inside with a nutmeg, but his shot was powerful and high to Bain’s left at the near post; It was a superb finish, but Ajer’s limp attempt to block the shot didn’t help his goalkeeper.
With the lead and a man advantage, the Rangers nabbed Celtic early in the second half, without initially producing a decisive moment. Kent left Taylor for dead with sublime skill, but Roofe couldn’t take advantage as Celtic struggled to get out of their own half. When they did, Turnbull glanced at Forrest’s header past the far post when he was not marked.
It was a costly failure, as the Rangers cleared after 56 minutes at Roofe. It was he who fed Barisic on the left, then drifted unmarked to pass Bain eight meters away. The clinical finish that had once been Celtic’s hallmark was now being shown by their rivals.
The end of the road in Old Firm games for the Celtic captain had come. Scott Brown, who was on his 44th and final derby, had been largely a spectator as the game raged around him, and he was replaced on time by Ismaila Soro, with Forrest also being retired for Ryan Christie. Celtic’s biggest concern now seemed to be limiting the damage to the score and his pride, but they were still able to create clear chances.
Edward almost produced a moment of magic as he skinned Simpson, but his cross shot escaped from the far post. Ajer then hooked the ball wide after a typical thrust from depth, before Elyounoussi managed to apply a back finish to Kenny’s cross.
Defoe had the last laugh as the scoreline grew emphatic, turning Stephen Welsh over before passing the ball into the net past Bain. Celtic’s inability to take risks in big moments, a failure repeated all season long, had once again come back to haunt them, as Rangers had managed six undefeated derbies dating back over eighteen months.
Rangers will travel to face Livingston in the Scottish Premiership on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET. Celtic hosts St Johnstone the same evening at 7.45pm.