Rangers verdict: Steven Gerrard's side underlined Old Firm power shift despite being far from their best at Celtic Park

It’s doubtful whether Steven Gerrard ever felt as relaxed and content on a touchline in his previous 99 Premiership fixtures in charge of Rangers as he was entitled to be when bringing up the century at Celtic Park on Sunday afternoon.

Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos celebrates his first ever goal against Celtic which secured a 1-1 draw for the new Premiership champions. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos celebrates his first ever goal against Celtic which secured a 1-1 draw for the new Premiership champions. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Arriving at the home of his club’s ancient rivals for the first league fixture after ending the decade-long wait for that 55th domestic title already afforded Gerrard the kind of serenity few managers ever get to enjoy in this fixture.

Leaving the east end of Glasgow a few hours later with his team’s unbeaten league record this season still intact meant that sense of satisfaction was undisturbed.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

While Gerrard would clearly have preferred to collect all three points, this was a day when one was more than enough to meet Rangers’ requirements.

Celtic goalkeeper Scott Bain is left helpless as Alfredo Morelos heads home Rangers' equaliser from close range. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Yes, it means they can no longer match the record 106-point tally for a 38-game top flight campaign set by Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic side four years ago.

But that can only be regarded as the most minor of irritations for Gerrard and his players, if indeed it bothers them at all.

Power shift

They remain on course to become ‘Invincibles’ in their own right, a tag which is now just five post-split fixtures away from their grasp.

Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor, pictured retrieving a shot from Odsonne Edouard which had slipped through his legs, made several solid saves for his team as they maintained their unbeaten Premiership record. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

More significantly, however, they have extended a sequence of results against Celtic which have been pivotal to Gerrard succeeding in his primary objective of turning the Old Firm balance of power back in Rangers’ favour.

For the first time since 2008, the Ibrox club have gone four successive matches undefeated against Celtic. And while they were second best in terms of possession and chances created in this latest instalment of the great fixture, they nonetheless displayed some of the key qualities Gerrard has instilled to take them back to the summit of Scottish football.

In a match which understandably lacked the fieriness and confrontational nature normally associated with meetings of the Glasgow giants, Gerrard’s players were well served by a combination of composure and resilience.

In the years immediately preceding Gerrard’s arrival, Rangers were too often guilty of either panic or self-pity whenever they fell behind against Celtic.

There was no hint of that on this occasion when Mohamed Elyounoussi’s flying header made the 23rd minute breakthrough for a Celtic team whose motivation to end Rangers’ unbeaten run unsurprisingly ensured they had the edge in terms of the intensity of their play for sizeable spells.

Milestone moment for Morelos

Rangers continued to operate with a sense of assurance that the opportunity to equalise would come their way, as it duly did seven minutes before the break from a corner cheaply conceded by Celtic right-back Jonjoe Kenny.

Having previously punished Celtic’s vulnerability at set pieces when winning 2-0 on their first visit of the season to Parkhead last October, Rangers did it again when Borna Barisic’s delivery was flicked on by Leon Balogun for Alfredo Morelos to head home from close range.

It was the sweetest of moments for the Colombian international striker whose failure to find the net in his previous 14 appearances against Celtic has always negatively framed any debate over just how successful he has been as a Rangers player.

There may not have been as much at stake in this game but breaking his Old Firm duck was a hugely significant moment for Morelos nonetheless.

His form since the turn of the year underpinned Rangers’ relentless push to the Premiership winning line and this was his ninth goal in his last 14 games. He remains his club’s biggest asset and his ambition of a move to a bigger league may be realised this summer. But Gerrard must hope the prospect of Champions League football might persuade Morelos to stick around for at least another year.

Mitigating factors

After the physically and emotionally taxing events of the previous fortnight, from the celebrations of their title success and the unsavoury circumstances which surrounded their Europa League elimination by Slavia Prague, this was never likely to be a vintage display from Rangers.

The weariness from Thursday night’s 2-0 defeat against the Czech champions at Ibrox perhaps accounted for a lack of sharpness in some of their defending, most notably down their right flank where Balogun and Connor Goldson were troubled by the clever interplay of Celtic front two Elyounoussi and Odsonne Edouard.

Even when Nathan Patterson replaced Balogun at right-back early in the second half, Celtic continued to look threatening down their left through the advancements of full-back Diego Laxalt.

But although Allan McGregor had to make a handful of decent saves throughout the afternoon, there was never a sense of Rangers truly being under the cosh. Their own creativity and attacking menace was not as consistent as it has been for most of the season with Joe Aribo cutting an unusually subdued figure.

Ryan Kent did carry a threat for Gerrard’s side, clearly having the measure of Kenny, and might have made a greater impact had he been provided with more regular service.

But this was not a match which will be debriefed or analysed with too much of a critical eye by Gerrard and his coaching staff. It was another box ticked in a remarkably efficient season, one which has now seen them match the club record 33-game unbeaten run from the start of a top flight campaign set in 1967-68.

The smart money remains on this Rangers side extending that sequence all the way to matchday 38 when they lift the Premiership trophy on May 16.

Celtic (4-4-2): Bain, Kenny, Welsh, Ajer, Laxalt; Christie, Brown (Soro 88), Turnbull (Forrest 78), McGregor; Edouard (Griffiths 88), Elyounoussi (Rogic 85). Subs not used: Barkas, Taylor, Duffy, Bitton, Klimala.

Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor, Balogun (Patterson 56), Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Aribo (Wright 77), Davis, Kamara; Hagi (Arfield 65), Morelos (Roofe 77), Kent. Subs not used: McLaughlin, Bassey, Zungu, Defoe, Itten.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.