The tribal atmosphere of an Old Firm contest may have returned to Glasgow last night in a reduced format but it was still there in all its passion as Junior Ogen’s double helped Rangers retain the Glasgow Cup with a 3-2 win over Celtic.
Scorers: Celtic U-17 - McMullan (16 pen, 74); Rangers U-17 - Hardie (28), Ogen (32, 59)
Referee: S Brown
While the game was between under-17 players, the atmosphere at Partick Thistle’s Firhill was age-old as over 6,000 fans savoured each other’s company for the first time in a year and it felt like the big time as there were reports of clashes before kick-off with a police helicopter hovering menacingly at the end of the game.
The start was delayed as Rangers supporters launched red, white and blue flares and Celtic fans set off green ones and referee Steven Brown literally waited for the smoke to clear before instructing kick-off.
As the players looked to settle, Rangers Ogen headed the first chance into the arms of Celtic goalkeeper Jordan Hart and just to add to the drama the fire brigade arrived to check that everything was in order in the ground.
Rangers had another opening on 11 minutes when Hart fumbled a cross and David Brownlie headed goalward only for Celtic skipper Calum Waters to head clear from his goal-line.
It was, however, Celtic who drew first blood on 16 minutes from the penalty spot after Paul McMullan darted past Brownlie and hared through on goal with the defender pulling the striker back and sending him tumbling to the ground.
Brownlie was a touch fortunate to only be yellow carded before McMullan effortlessly despatched the spot-kick past Liam Kelly. Rangers drew level on 28 minutes when a long pass by Dylan Dykes evaded the Celtic defence and Ryan Hardie controlled the ball on his chest before hooking the ball home.
It was 2-1 to Rangers four minutes later thanks to a fine solo goal by Ogen who slalomed his way through the Celtic defence, slipping a shot home.
This was a cue for more flares to be thrown and for stewards to run into the North Stand that housed Rangers fans with a fire extinguisher to put out a flare that had gone off under a seat.
It was almost 3-1 just before the break when Hardie lofted the ball over Hart, but Fiacre Kelleher managed to scramble the ball clear.
Hardie came close again just two minutes after the restart, but Hart clawed away his effort for a corner.
However, Rangers were not to be denied a third and when it came it arrived in style.
Hardie twisted and turned on the left-hand side of the Celtic box before chipping to the far post where Ogen arrived to send a volley back across goal and into the far corner of the net.
Celtic got back into things with 16 minutes left thanks to a superb turn and shot by McMullan from the 18-yard line, his effort being so well placed that Kelly did not even make an attempt to save.
Aidan Nesbitt then came within inches of levelling twice as he saw a shot deflected off Ryan Sinnamon before crashing against a post, then hitting the other upright 60 seconds later with a low drive.
McMullan looked to rescue his side as he made an injury-time dash into the Rangers box, but Greg Pascazio showed maturity beyond his years to close him down, before a pitch invasion by two fans delayed the final whistle.
Celtic Under-17: Hart, Eadie (McDonagh 89), Waters, McManus, Kelleher, Barrowman (McLaren 67), Nesbitt, Henderson, McMullan, Thomson, Donnelly (Lafferty 67). Subs not used: Breslin, McCabe, McIlduff, Caird.
Rangers Under-17: Kelly, Sinnamon, Mills, Brownlie, Pascazio, Mossie (Reilly 75), Ogen, Dykes, Hardie, Stoney (Wilson 35), Walsh (Chatterton 88). Subs not used: Wilson, Morgan, Wilson.