Hero or pantomime villain? Leigh Griffiths doesn’t mind playing both after managing to break Rangers fans’ hearts and raise their blood pressure in yesterday’s 2-0 victory at Ibrox.
The Celtic striker ensured three points for his side with a confident finish beyond Wes Foderingham on 65 minutes. Following up Tom Rogic’s opener, the goal killed any chance of Rangers getting anything from the game and, in typical Griffiths style, there was no chance he was going to celebrate by bashfully returning to the halfway line.
In a scene which appeared almost rehearsed, Griffiths picked up a Celtic scarf thrown into his path and started waving it in the air. He continued to do so as he turned up the park, eyeing the Rangers support.
As expected, this infuriated the home fans, with a couple attempting to jump the barriers to get at the goalscorer.
It may have been a case of provocation, but Griffiths insists it’s part and parcel of football, and believes his opponents would happily have done the same in a similar situation.
“They like to pipe up a bit,” he smiled when asked of the abuse he may have received from the Rangers fans. “Listen, I enjoyed my goal – you need to celebrate any goal you score.
“I was delighted with it. It’s a derby at the end of the day and I’m sure if Rangers players had scored at Celtic Park they would do the exact same thing.
“I think we controlled the game from start to finish. Nil-nil was not a bad scoreline to go in with at half-time and we knew going into the second half that our legs would be better than theirs.”
It was Griffiths’ 100th league appearance for Celtic and he has scored 67 goals in those games.
“It’s not too bad,” he said of the record. “I could have had a few more with the chances I’ve missed, but scoring on my 100th league appearance for Celtic is nice.
“I’m happy with a goal, three points, clean sheet. We’ll head back down the road and get ready for Wednesday [against Anderlecht in the Champions League].”
It was a deserved victory for Celtic, one which already takes them eight points clear of their rivals after only seven games.
Despite this, James Tavernier insists the home side still believe they can challenge Brendan Rodgers’ side at the top of the table.
“Definitely,” answered the Rangers full-back when asked if they still have faith in their ability to compete in the title race.
“We’ve got three more games against them and we have to make the big games count. It’s still early in the season.
“The first half showed [the gap is closing]. Both teams created good chances and I thought we defended really well. Second half it was two mistakes that really cost us the game.
“When they went 1-0 up they kept the ball at the back and were waiting for us to press. It is a tougher game for a defending team to try and chase the ball down when they have a lot of possession. Maybe the tiredness crept in a little bit. We will just keep working hard at it.”