Craig Fowler gives his take on Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden as Celtic swat aside rivals Rangers
Rangers should stop talking about ‘the gap’
Once again the Ibrox club talked about closing “the gap” on their rivals and once again they were handed a stark reminder that the chasm is as great as ever. Brendan Rodgers’ side dominated from the first whistle and could easily have added more to the four goals they did find had they not taken their foot off the gas at 3-0 and a man up. Instead of saying they’ve closed the gap, Rangers should just concentrate on doing their talking on the pitch. Maybe then they’ll actually get somewhere.
You don’t solve a problem like Tom Rogic by ignoring it
There is nobody in the Rangers ranks who has the defensive nous or physical properties to stop Celtic’s playmaking paradox: towering frame; silky-smooth touch. However, that doesn’t mean he should just be allowed to do as he pleases, as Rangers seemed intent on doing in the opening half. Continually the Australian found space in which to work his magic as he and Moussa Dembele were at the heart of everything in the first 45. He netted once and he could easily have had another as his opponents chased shadows.
Dembele v Griffiths is not a thing
It seems before every big match there’s a debate over whether the Scottish international should start above his French team-mate. And it seems every time Brendan Rodgers goes for Dembele and, at least in a Scottish context, it works out fine. The 21-year-old’s concentration levels may slip in matches where Celtic are expected to win routinely, though he is capable of turning it on when his club really need him to. He was superb against the Ibrox side as his hold up and link play were crucial aspects of the Celtic attack. Not a bad penalty either.
More fans in the team doesn’t equate to success
How often have we heard ex-pros say there needs to be more ‘Rangers men’ in the Ibrox side’s starting XI? Well, perhaps Graeme Murty had been listening to such talk, because there were five boyhood fans in the team, including a surprise recall for Andy Halliday. As you’ll probably be aware, it failed to do anything to halt Celtic’s dominance in this fixture. Whether they’re from Govan, England, Portugal, or wherever, what Rangers need is a group of talented players and a manager who knows exactly how to get the best out of them. Until then the rest is just noise.
Olivier Ntcham came ready to play
The talented young midfielder does have a tendency to drift through some games, doing little to influence the action other than playing the odd five-yard pass. But there are others when he looks every bit the £4.5million player Celtic hoped he’d be when they signed him last summer. Like Rogic, he was another who exploited space in the midfield area, as his counterparts got drawn out to the wide areas because of a deliberate, and baffling, ploy not to have Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias track the full-backs. Instead of letting play come to him, as he easily could have, he was dynamic from the beginning, always looking to get on the ball and find space while probing for an avenue to attack. In a match full of top performers in hooped shirts, he was probably the best of them all.