Celtic put down an early marker, sending a strong message to Rangers, with a 2-0 win at Ibrox. Joel Sked looks back at the encounter.
Gerrard gets it wrong
Steven Gerrard got his Rangers system and personnel wrong. From the start the Ibrox side didn’t look right. Celtic’s defence has been questioned and needed to be tested, especially Boli Bolingoli at left-back. Yet, there were five central midfielders fielded behind Jermain Defoe making the team incredibly narrow. James Tavernier wasn’t his useful forceful self down the right, while it was Jon Flanagan who best summed it up, constantly cutting inside onto his right foot. The home fans would have wanted their team to star positively, on the front foot but with the formation they couldn’t manage that.
Celtic’s defence stands firm
There have been question marks about the Celtic defence. It was one which included three new signings and a central midfielder. There was no Kristoffer Ajer and no Jozo Simunovic. They defied critics and stood tall. Nir Bitton and especially Christopher Jullien were imperious. The Frenchman strolled through the encounter, best encapsulated in the first half when Jermain Defoe was trying to create space at the edge of the box and he just stepped in and took the ball off the Rangers striker as if he was playing against his kid in the back garden. Both Bolingoli and Hatem Abd Elhamed were safe and secure down the flanks.
The referee earned praise from Neil Lennon after the match but the whistler had a poor performance. He made three blatant errors. Callum McGregor scythed down Steven Davis, Ryan Jack was late on Bolingoli with his studs and McGregor clearly dived right in front of him. None of the incidents warranted a yellow card in the eyes of Madden. It is a stance which promotes overly physical play and is a dangerous way to officiate.
Rangers had the favourites tag going into the match with a growing belief among the home support that this could be the season they end Celtic’s run of title wins. Yet, in their first big domestic challenge they couldn’t handle that pressure, or the pressure exerted on them by Celtic. As soon as the ball came into the midfield the visitors, led by Scott Brown, hunted their opponents. It saw the home side play an incredible number of misplaced passes with Glen Kamara hooked at half-time as perhaps the worst offender. They required greater composure if they are to make the step to up to Celtic.
Awesome Odsonne Edouard
Celtic fans, to the tune of the Stones Roses’ ‘I wanna be adored’, serenade their star striker with ‘I wanna be Edouard’. Watching the Frenchman in action it is easy to see why. The Frenchman led the line fantastically for Celtic, up against a Rangers defence which has come in for praise. There is the vision, the touches round the corner, the work rate, the selflessness and, of course, the goals. He put Celtic ahead with a cool finish past Allan McGregor. It was his sixth strike of the season as the 21-year-old begins to finds the consistency to go alongside his considerable talent.
Celtic’s strong message
Neil Lennon queried after the match that “maybe, maybe now people will cut us a bit of slack and respect us”. The Northern Irishman has a point. Barring one disastrous half of football against Cluj it has been a fine start to the campaign. Not only did they go to the home of their fierce rivals, who many feel will run them close this season, and put in a commanding performance to earn a deserved win, Lennon also saw three recruits show up positively. It is a strong early message from the champions that they are not going anywhere quietly.