Crucial Ibrox victory
Rangers take major step towards league title
Joy: Rangers celebrate (pic: SNS Group)
Rangers 1 Celtic 0
Runaway league leaders Rangers tightened their grip on the title with a hard-fought victory at Ibrox.
Steven Gerrard’s men were outplayed for an hour as an impressive Celtic side dominated proceedings but the visitors paid the price for failing to score when on top.
Veteran keeper Allan McGregor once again underlined his value to Rangers with superb stops from Odsonne Edouard Leigh Griffiths in the first half
The game turned with Nir Bitton’s red card in the 62nd minute, the Israeli dismissed for hauling down Alfredo Morelos as he tried to break clear wide on the right.
The game’s only goal came when Callum McGregor deflected the ball into his own net eight minutes after the red card incident.
Up to that point, Celtic boss Neil Lennon could not have asked for more from his players. But he now finds himself a mammoth 19 points behind leaders Rangers, albeit with three games in hand, and the chance of an historic 10th title in a row seemingly all but gone.
“Credit to Celtic they played really well in the first half,” said Gerrard. “We couldn’t get a foothold in the opening 45 minutes.
“It’s about the end result and we extend our lead. You won’t always be pretty on the eye and be able to show your style. It was all about the three points.
“I think there’s 48 points to play for and there are a lot of challenges to come. Today was big in terms of making a statement.
“Our season starts now.”
“I think there’s 48 points to play for and there are a lot of challenges to come. Today was big in terms of making a statement. – Steven Gerrard
Rival boss Lennon said: “I’m bitterly disappointed, we were the better team. And I think the referee has made the wrong decision and changed the course of the game.
“It’s not a sending off, it’s a foul. Ajer is coming back to cover and Morelos is in the right position.
“It’s not a clear and obvious goalscoring opportunity, he might get a shot off but he’s certainly not clean through on goal.
“I think he was too quick in getting his red card out. I don’t think the referee was great all day.
“I’m really proud of the performance, though, and thought we were outstanding.”
Celtic majority shareholder Dermot Desmond had ignored fans’ calls to sack Lennon amid a poor run of form, instead saying his position would be reviewed in early January.
The Northern Irishman responded with victory in the Scottish Cup Final last month to clinch a famous quadruple treble, and his team went into the Ibrox match on the back of six straight victories.
However, with 10-in-a-row now looking a forlorn hope, it seems likely that Lennon’s future will be back on the agenda sooner rather than later.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier (c), Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Aribo (Barker), Davis, Kamara, Kent (Zungu), Roofe (Hagi), Morelos (Itten).
Celtic: Barkas, Frimpong, Bitton, Ajer, Laxalt, Soro (Brown), McGregor (c) (Rogic), Christie (Elhamed), Turnbull (Elyounoussi), Griffiths (Duffy), Edouard.
Goal: Rangers – McGregor (og), 70.