Celtic took another big step towards an unbeaten domestic season with an utterly dominant display at Ibrox, waltzing to their second 5-1 win of the season against their rivals.
It was supposed to be full of sound and fury while signifying nothing much. Yet, at Ibrox yesterday Rangers were so evidently a footballing tragedy of Shakespearian proportions, a comedy of errors as they were utterly duffed up in a derby tempest, that their – latest – monumental mauling by Celtic will long remain implanted in the collective memory. It was the stuff of which dreams, and nightmares, are made in this cauldron.
To the seemingly never-ending list of landmark feats achieved by Brendan Rodgers and his side this season another was added, with the first five-goal haul in a league match for Celtic at Ibrox. And in that entire history of the fixture, arguably there has never been a more outrageously lopsided contest between the pair.
Yesterday’s slaughter by a Celtic side that Rangers have the misfortune to motivate to produce their best, made last week’s 2-0 Scottish Cup semi-final cakewalk seem like a nip-and-tuck contest. It even made the 5-1 for Rodgers’ men at Celtic Park earlier this season look not such a bloody awful day for the Ibrox club.
Pedro Caixinha claimed his Rangers side showed more passion than when leaving him “ashamed” at Hampden the previous week. That is as may be, but the Portuguese effectively recognised that effort doesn’t really matter a jot when Celtic are operating in a different solar system – exhibiting a purpose, poise and panache that made them untouchable by the hosts.
It might not have been a day to ponder Celtic’s subs bench and their injury absentees. Yet between the former and latter, Rodgers’ starting XI yesterday did not feature Moussa Dembele, Tom Rogic, Erik Sviatchenko, James Forrest or Nir Bitton, all major players across the campaign of 42 domestic encounters unbeaten. It’s not even a case, then, that Celtic boast a better team, they probably have two sides that could reduce Rangers to the status of opponents no more of a threat than such as St Johnstone or Partick Thistle – neither of these teams shipping five goals against champions they have actually been able to push to their very limits.
Ibrox was nearly three-quarters empty even before referee John Beaton sounded – seconds early – for the end of 90 minutes, and Rangers scarves thrown on when Dedryck Boyata made it 4-0 just after an hour testified to the tortures engulfing the Rangers faithful yesterday. Two among this number betrayed the ugly side of the fixture. A celebrating Scott Brown was accosted by a fan who had raced on the field after the seventh minute penalty opener and another was pictured apparently making monkey gestures towards Scott Sinclair.
New Ibrox manager Caixinha has presided over two of the most lamentable displays from an Ibrox side against their ancient adversaries. The away support taunted the home denizens about ten-in-a-row and the sequences is now considered such a foregone conclusion bookmakers are now making Celtic odds on to plough through for years of titles to reach the record figure.
Rodgers has moulded a Celtic team that yesterday seemed able to find the passes, pockets of spaces, and runners to pull Rangers apart at will. They had the appetite to make all their advantages count in the seventh minute, when a little burst of pace from Patrick Roberts on the edge of the area induced an admittedly bonkers challenge from Myles Beerman to earn the penalty. The winger was stepping away from goal, but the fear Celtic can spread through the Rangers ranks would have played a part in the concession of a spot-kick that allowed Sinclair to send Wes Foderingham the wrong way.
Within 20 minutes a thumping looked firmly on the cards because by then Leigh Griffiths had stepped inside from a tight angle on the left and speared a venomous effort into the far corner. Callum McGregor’s brilliant spell produced a second derby goal inside a week when the shredding of Rangers defences ended up allowing the attacker to send an angled effort wide of Foderingham from the edge of the area.
The Ibrox backline was non-existent as Boyata nodded in a Griffiths free-kick, before the token resistance that could only come from Kenny Miller, pictured inset, produced an 81st minute home goal, the forward exchanging passes with Joe Garner before finishing tidily. The punishment was not over for Rangers, though, with Mikael Lustig slicing through tissue defences before finishing with precision. As it stands, this fixture is finished as a contest of even vaguely comparables.