December 29, 2018
Ryan Jack strike helps Rangers end Old Firm winless run against Celtic
Ryan Jack gives Rangers deserved Old Firm victory over Celtic
Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers played down the wider significance of this result but Old Firm victories can never be viewed in isolation. The epic scale of celebrations at Ibrox as Rangers finally tripped up Rodgers, at the 13th attempt, endorsed a rising sense that we may be witnessing a title race after all. The only travesty as this fixture concluded was that Rangers, so utterly dominant from start to finish, didn’t win by more.
Celtic hold a game in hand but that Rangers have joined them on 42 points as the Scottish top flight shuts down resonated way beyond a single game.
Gerrard offered high praise to Celtic as the Ibrox dust settled but the Liverpool icon needed a victory such as this. It showed, at just the second attempt, he can achieve the upper hand over Rodgers. Unfair though it may be, managers in this city are heavily viewed through the prism of success or otherwise in Old Firm fixtures.
“Celtic are still the favourites, the team to catch and beat,” Gerrard said. “What we have shown today is on our day and when we find our level, we are more than a match for them.”
Gerrard’s calmness was notable, especially after such a highly-charged 90 minutes. “It’s a good result for the belief and confidence of everyone at Rangers, not just myself,” he added. “I’ve seen signs and performances which have been close to today but maybe not from start to finish like this. The timing is really good.
“That’s six months now together and everything we’ve been trying to do on the training pitch and in games has come out today. It’s been enough to get a big win.
“That’s the best we have played. I said to them after the game, ‘if you keep delivering performances like that it will take you to places we all want to get to.’”
Suddenly, Rangers’ failure to beat Dundee and Hibernian was forgotten. Suddenly, the recurring sense that Celtic are untouchable in their home league appeared ludicrous.
“Rangers deserved to win,” said a magnanimous Rodgers. “We didn’t play well, we made too many mistakes. I have no real excuses. On the day Rangers were better than us.
“We knew before this game we would either be in a good position [in the league] or a very good position. The league is very competitive, which is good. This doesn’t change anything we didn’t know before the game.”
Perhaps Rodgers, who was stung by Celtic’s failure to recruit meaningfully last summer, has seen his hand strengthened regarding upcoming transfer aspirations. Yet it seems unsatisfactory for a club of Celtic’s vast resource that Callum McGregor, their most effective midfielder, had to be removed from his natural habitat to deputise at left-back because of Kieran Tierney’s lack of fitness. If the personal problems as affecting Leigh Griffiths couldn’t be foreseen, it is also curious that Rodgers has just a single first-team striker available in Odsonne Édouard. The Frenchman’s lack of fitness meant he featured for just half an hour against Rangers.
Rodgers cannot be exempt from blame but his club’s recruitment fails to convince. A breathless opening to the game was marked by Celtic sloppiness. Scott Brown’s despairing tackle prevented Daniel Candeias from opening the scoring after one of many slack passes from Dedryck Boyata. Whereas routinely Celtic can recover from early wobbles, there weren’t roused at all here.
Craig Gordon saved brilliantly from Candeias and Connor Goldson as Rangers pushed for the goal their first half display deserved. Brown, who was to endure a torrid afternoon, headed against his own crossbar from an Andy Halliday corner. What was to prove the decisive goal arrived after Ryan Kent, one of many outstanding performers in blue, bamboozled Mikael Lustig before cutting back for Ryan Jack. The midfielder’s calm, low shot flicked off Brown on its way beyond the stranded Gordon.
Onlookers waited for a Celtic response that didn’t arrive, save a McGregor “goal” that was correctly ruled out for offside and an Olivier Ntcham shot which was bravely blocked by Halliday. Gordon denied Jack and McGregor halted Scott Arfield as Rangers chased the second their afternoon’s work merited as a bare minimum.
Rangers had restricted Celtic’s allocation from 7000 to 750, a scenario which doused the spectacle but possibly played a part in the hosts’ ebullience. “Having 7000 fans doesn’t stop you from passing the ball out of the park,” said Rodgers, ruefully. It is no exaggeration to suggest thousands of punters from the east end would have been perfectly happy to have been spared this.
Ryan Jack gives Rangers deserved Old Firm victory over Celtic

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