Match report as Rangers go unbeaten in Scottish Premiership Old Firm matches for the first time since the 1999/2000 season; Callum McGregor sent off inside half an hour for two yellow cards; Rangers register biggest win against Celtic in 14 years
By Charles Paterson at Ibrox
Sunday 2 May 2021 14:25, UK
Rangers reinforced their status as the dominant team in Scotland with a comprehensive and entertaining 4-1 victory over 10-man Celtic at Ibrox, to move within two games of an Invincible league season.
In a crazy seven-minute spell of the first half, Mohammed Elyounoussi hit the crossbar for Celtic, before Rangers took the lead through Kemar Roofe’s neat finish. Callum McGregor was then sent off for a second booking in the build-up to the goal.
Celtic immediately equalised through Odsonne Edouard, but Alfredo Morelos quickly restored the champions’ lead with a thunderbolt finish.
Roofe scored his second soon after half-time to give Rangers breathing space, but David Turnbull, Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer and Elyounoussi all spurned good chances for Celtic that would have set up an exciting finish.
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Instead, Jermain Defoe came off the bench late on to add a fourth in injury time for his first Old Firm goal, as Rangers rubbed salt in the wounds of the deposed champions.
While Steven Gerrard’s side will confirm an unbeaten league campaign – and perhaps hit the 100-point mark – if they avoid defeat against Livingston and Aberdeen, Celtic must turn their focus quickly to appointing Neil Lennon’s replacement. Having started the season bidding for an historic tenth successive title, they instead suffered the ignominy of failing to beat their rivals during a campaign for the first time since 1999-2000.
How Rangers dismissed their Old Firm rivals
With the title long since sewn up, and both sides out of the Scottish Cup, it had been one of the most underwhelming build-ups to an Old Firm game in living memory, but the match more than made up for that.
The visitors began brightly with some promising forays on the left flank that ultimately led to nought, with Jack Simpson – making his derby debut at the heart of Rangers’ defence – starting confidently to stand tall against the danger.
Celtic had dominated in the early exchanges on the last two trips to Ibrox, only for Rangers to show a clinical touch when it mattered. It appeared this game might follow a similar pattern as the champions broke clear followed a mistake by Jonjoe Kenny; Tavernier’s delightful cross was laid on a plate for Morelos, only for the Colombian to miskick as Kenny dived in front of him.
Simpson was booked after an innocuous clash with Edouard, before McGregor joined him five minutes later after halting Kent’s progress, but the game had been lacking the spice or bite normally associated with these fixtures – then from nowhere, it exploded into life.
Elyounoussi seized possession in midfield and strode forward unchallenged, before unleashing a powerful shot that was goal-bound, only for Allan McGregor to get a fingertip on it to deflect it onto the crossbar. Moments later, Celtic were dealt a double blow as they fell behind.
Rangers worked space 40 yards from goal and Kamara slipped a ball through before being taken out late by McGregor. Referee Nick Walsh played advantage as Aribo crossed from the left, Kent sent the ball goalward and Roofe chested the ball past Scott Bain. As Rangers celebrated, Walsh produced a second yellow card for McGregor and Celtic were, for the second time at Ibrox this season, a man light.
It was a period of play that encapsulated Celtic’s disappointing season, but they responded immediately. Turnbull’s corner was headed back across goal by Ajer, and Edouard was quickest to react in the six-yard box, nodding home despite the desperate efforts of Davis to clear off the line.
The game was now wide open. Aribo forced Bain into a good save at his near post, before Edouard blocked Goldson’s goal-bound header. Yet Rangers soon 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 box. He was slightly fortunate to cut inside Brown with a nutmeg but his shot was powerful and high to Bain’s left at the near post; it was a stunning finish, but Ajer’s limp attempt to block the shot did not help his goalkeeper.
With the lead and a man advantage, Rangers pinned Celtic back at the start of the second half, without initially producing a decisive moment. Kent left Taylor for dead with some sublime skill, but Roofe could not take advantage, as Celtic struggled to get out of their own half. When they did, Turnbull glanced Forrest’s header past the far post when unmarked.
It was a costly miss, as Rangers pulled further clear after 56 minutes through Roofe. It was he who fed Barisic on the left, and then drifted in unmarked to head past Bain from eight yards. The clinical finishing which had once been Celtic’s hallmark was now being shown by their rivals.
The end of the road in Old Firm matches for the Celtic captain had come. Scott Brown, playing in his 44th and final derby, had been largely a bystander as the game raged around him, and he was replaced on the hour by Ismaila Soro, with Forrest also being withdrawn for Ryan Christie. Celtic’s biggest concern now seemed to be limiting the damage to the score and their pride, but they were still capable of creating clear-cut chances.
Edouard nearly produced a moment of magic as he skinned Simpson, but his cross-cum-shot trickled wide of the far post. Ajer then hooked the ball wide after a typical surging run from deep, before Elyounoussi failed to apply a back-post finish to Kenny’s cross.
Defoe had the final say as the score-line became emphatic, turning Stephen Welsh inside out before passing the ball into the net past Bain. Celtic’s inability to take chances in the big moments, a repeated failing all season, had once again returned to haunt them, as Rangers made it six derbies without defeat stretching back more than eighteen months.
Rangers travel to face Livingston in the Scottish Premiership on Wednesday at 6pm. Celtic host St Johnstone on the same evening at 7.45pm.
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