How Celtic took seismic step towards title as Rangers are dealt shattering blow in front of home fans

Celtic placed one hand firmly on the cinch Premiership trophy as they came from behind to become the first team to beat Rangers at Ibrox in the league for over two years.

On what undeniably felt like a defining afternoon in the title race, it was a shattering blow for the defending champions as Ange Postecoglou’s side moved six points clear at the top of the table with just six games remaining.

Even though there is another Old Firm game to be played amid a post-split fixture schedule which is always capable of throwing up unexpected twists and turns, nothing in Celtic’s relentless domestic form suggests they are likely to slip-up now.

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For Rangers, a momentous April could not have got off to a worse start as they try to adapt to life without talismanic striker Alfredo Morelos.

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Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s squad still have much to play for, not least a Europa League campaign which sees them face Braga in the first leg of their quarter-final in Portugal on Thursday night.

But the psychological damage of this result may prove difficult to repair in the coming weeks and months.

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Celtic, by contrast, are on a roll as they target the domestic treble in Postecoglou’s increasingly impressive debut season in charge.

They display outstanding character to respond to falling behind to Aaron Ramsey’s early goal, wiping out the deficit before the break through Tom Rogic and Cameron Carter-Vickers.

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 03: Celtic's Daizen Maeda (L) competes with Rangers' Leon Balogun during a cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium, on April 02, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Rangers had clearly hoped to replicate the high octane start to the contest which Celtic had executed to such devastating effect against them in the last meeting of the teams at Parkhead in February.

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Ramsey’s superb opener inside the opening three minutes seemed to have fulfilled that desire for van Bronckhorst’s men until they were confronted by a resilient and impressive response from the visitors to turn the scoreline around before half-time.

It dampened the mood of a home support who were in a ferment when Rangers made that early breakthrough.

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It was a brilliantly worked goal as Calvin Bassey carved open the Celtic defence with a clever pass inside exposed right-back Josip Juranovic to pick out the overlapping run of Ryan Kent.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 03: Celtic's Cameron Carter-Vickers celebrates his goal making it 2-1 during a cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium, on April 02, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
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The Rangers winger measured his cutback to perfection, presenting Ramsey with a chance he took with relish as he drove home a shot which Joe Hart got a hand to but couldn’t keep out.

Celtic looked utterly rattled at this point as Rangers poured forward in search of a quickfire second goal.

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But the tone of the contest was dramatically altered when Celtic equalised with their first attack in the seventh minute.

Captain Callum McGregor led by example, driving into the Rangers penalty area beyond Bassey and setting up Rogic for a shot which was blocked. The ball broke to Reo Hatate and when his attempt was weakly parried by Allan McGregor, Rogic was on hand to finish from close range.

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 03: Rangers' Aaron Ramsey makes it 1-0, beating Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart during a cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium, on April 02, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Rangers tried to regain their earlier intensity but the equaliser had steadied a Celtic side who generally looked the more threatening for the rest of the first half.

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Both teams had penalty claims ignored by referee Willie Collum – Joe Aribo going down off the ball as Carl Starfelt clipped his heels – while Allan McGregor looked fortunate to escape when Daizen Maeda tumbled under his advancing challenge.

The Rangers goalkeeper had earlier made a perfectly timed intervention to smother the ball at Maeda’s feet and the momentum was very much with Celtic as the interval approached.

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Giorgos Giakoumakis should have scored when he sent a free header wide but the visitors did take the lead in the 43rd minute.

John Lundstram was booked for a rash challenge on Giakoumakis and when Jota floated the free-kick in from the left, Leon Balogun’s poorly directed attempt to clear saw the ball bounce off Lundstram into the path of Carter-Vickers who drove it beyond McGregor from around eight yards.

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Rangers seized the greater share of possession and territory in the second half but found clear-cut chances difficult to come by against a Celtic defence who dealt effectively with whatever was thrown at them.

Carter-Vickers was as impressive as anyone in the heart of their back four, although the USA international could consider himself lucky not to concede a penalty in the 61st minute when he blocked a Ryan Jack cross with an arm.

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Fashion Sakala provided Rangers with an injection of energy and fresh attacking intent when he replaced Ramsey and the Zambian forward came close to an equaliser with a low shot which forced Hart into a good save low to the goalkeeper’s left.

Celtic substitute Liel Abada should have settled the issue with his first touch when he drove a shot wide from an inviting position. The Israeli winger then passed up an even better opportunity when his close range shot was somehow diverted over by McGregor’s instinctive one-handed save.

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Rangers finished the match on the front foot but couldn’t source the leveller their second half display merited.

Kemar Roofe, who had been unable to impose himself on the Celtic defence in any sustained manner, missed Rangers’ best chance when he shot over from close range after being picked out by a cross from Connor Goldson who had been thrown into attack in the closing stages.

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When Aribo sent a tame effort straight at Hart, the game was pretty much up for Rangers. Celtic comfortably saw out five minutes of stoppage time before greeting the final whistle with expressions of delight they shared with their 700 travelling fans.

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