Rangers extended their lead at the top of the SPFL table to an impressive 19 points after a 1-0 win against a rejuvenated Celtic side at Ibrox today.
Rangers went into the game on the back of an impressive winning run of 13 straight victories, but for long stages of proceedings today Rangers looked nervous as Celtic dominated possession.
Steven Gerrard named two changes to his side, with Leon Balogun and Ryan Kent coming in at the expense of Filip Helander and Ianis Hagi.
Of course today was not just about matters on the park, with the club commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Ibrox Disaster.
Representatives from both Rangers and Celtic paid their respects by laying wreaths at the memorial statue prior to the match, including John Grieg who was captain on that fateful day in 1971.
Rangers also wore a commemorative shirt with the words “Always Remembered” and the date of disaster printed on it. James Tavernier carried wreath onto the park as he led out the team, as did Celtic captain Callum McGregor.
The club had planned to hold a service at Glasgow Cathedral, as was the case in 1971, however the current issues with the Coronavirus pandemic has forced the club to postpone the event until circumstances allow.
Steven Gerrard echoed the club’s request for supporters to stay away from Ibrox at his press conference yesterday. The club also suggested that supporters could make an alternative gesture of respect by making a small donation to the St Andrew’s First Aid charity.
St Andrew’s first aiders were one of the first on the scene at Stairway 13 in 1971, and were heavily involved in the emergency response.
Supporters who wish to make donation can do so HERE or text SAFA to 70660 to donate £10.
When the game started it was Celtic who looked the more likely and they came close early on when Odsonne Edouard’s shot was well saved by Allan McGregor, who would put in yet another masterful performance.
Leigh Griffiths had a drive from the edge of the box which was too direct at McGregor, allowing him to deal with it comfortably. Then Callum McGregor had a strike which went inches past McGregor’s post with the Rangers number one looking on helplessly.
Rangers then created their best chance of the first-half. Some neat work from Kamara and Kent allowed Joe Aribo to put a good ball into the box for Morelos who should have done better with his effort.
But that opportunity failed to kick-start Rangers and it was Celtic yet again who came close when Griffiths curled a shot from the edge of the box which was superbly tipped onto the post by McGregor.The Rangers keeper made his 400th appearance for the club on Wednesday against St Mirren. It is not difficult to see how he has reached that milestone when he consistently produces moments like these in big games.
Steven Gerrard was unimpressed enough with the first-half display to introduce Ianis Hagi in place of Kemar Roofe. Hagi didn’t take long to have an impact with a great effort from outside the box which flew past Vasilis Barkas’s post.
Then Morelos had another chance to break his goal-scoring duck against Celtic when Joe Aribo fed a ball to the Columbian’s feet. Morelos turned well, but his shot was blocked by Kristoffer Ajer and went out for a corner.
Then came the turning point in the match when James Tavernier sent a great ball down the channel which allowed Morelos to spin Nir Bitton and race in on goal. The Israeli pulled down the Rangers striker and gave referee Bobby Madden no option but to produce a red card.
Rangers nearly scored from the resulting free-kick as Tavernier sent a great ball into the box which seemed destined to be met by more than one Rangers player, but somehow the opportunity was missed and Celtic managed to clear.
James Tavernier then went on a great run which resulted in a foul just outside the box. Borna Barisic took the free-kick, only for it to deflected wide off Shane Duffy in the wall.
Tavernier sent in another great ball from the resultant corner, Joe Aribo jumped to flick the ball on and deflect it off Callum McGregor and past the despairing Barkas to give Rangers the lead.Celtic were lucky not to be reduced to nine men when Shane Duffy crudely brought down Ryan Kent. The Republic of Ireland defender then nearly presented Rangers with a gift when he misplaced a pass to Kent who worked the angle for a shot, only for it to be blocked.Steven Gerrard introduced Cedric Itten in the latter stages for Morelos, as well as Zungu for Kent, as he looked to manage and see out the game.
The win is Steven Gerrard’s third successive Old Firm victory and he was delighted with the three points stating afterwards: "It's another win and another clean sheet. I'm proud of the team in terms of their efforts, but in the first half we weren't good enough. We weren't ourselves and I thought we were second best in a lot of areas.
"There was a big improvement in the second half. We were getting up to people and we were more aggressive. We were believing in ourselves in what we were trying to do. The sending off was a major incident in the game, and there only looked like one team was going to win it from there.
"I asked the players how much they wanted to win a derby, especially here at Ibrox. We couldn't be passive and second best. Credit to Celtic in that first half, but we will remain humble now having stretched our lead. We're not always going to be pretty on the eye.
"It's all about the outcome, and it's a good sign for us to win despite not being at our best. McGregor was outstanding. He's a world-class goalkeeper and he's reliable. I already knew about him but I know even more now why he's been successful at this club. He's bailed us out on a number of occasions. We will look to Aberdeen now and there's a lot of obstacles still to get over. Today was about making a statement but we don't look at leads. Our season starts now."
RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic, Davis, Kamara, Aribo, Kent, Roofe, Morelos.
SUBS: McLaughlin, Bassey, Hagi, Defoe, Itten, Zungu, Barker, Helander, Patterson.
CELTIC: Barkas, Bitton, Griffiths, Soro, Turnbull, Christie, Edouard, Frimpong, Ajer, McGregor, Laxalt.
SUBS: Hazard, Taylor, Duffy, Brown, Ajeti, Rogic, Ntcham, Elyounoussi, Elhamed.
REF: Bobby Madden
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