Ryan Jack’s first-half strike gave Rangers a 1-0 win over Old Firm rivals Celtic at Ibrox to go level on points with the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders. Here are five things we learned from the game.
Title race is on
Rangers needed a title boost and they got it with a sterling performance against their bitter rivals. Defeat would have left the Light Blues trailing the Hoops by six points, with an inferior goal difference and having played a game more. However, the victory takes them level on points with the league leaders as Scottish football closes for the winter break. Both clubs will look to strengthen in the January window but Steven Gerrard’s men appear set to challenge Celtic all the way this season.
Unlucky 13 for Brendan Rodgers
Celtic boss Rodgers went into the game unbeaten in 12 Old Firm fixtures since he took over at Parkhead in 2016, with 10 wins and two draws. His one previous fixture against his former Liverpool captain Gerrard earlier in the season ended in a 1-0 win, with Olivier Ntcham scoring for the Hoops. The Northern Irishman was looking to become the first Celtic manager since 1909 to register five successive wins at Ibrox. However, it was not to be. This time he had to suffer at the hands of by the Light Blues, who could have won by a bigger margin had it not been for Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
Brendan Rodgers made mistakes with his line-up
Both sides were missing crucial players, but Rangers adapted far more comfortably to their absences. Celtic were without Kieran Tierney at left back and after Emilio Izaguirre’s torrid first half against Aberdeen, Jonny Hayes was expected to deputise. Instead, Rodgers decided on moving Callum McGregor into the role. It meant Scott Brown and Ntcham were given central midfield berths and both lacked the speed, mobility and composure to control the central areas. McGregor would have provided all of those attributes but being stationed in defence stunted his ability to influence the game. Even so, he nearly equalised but his rare foray into Rangers territory was correctly deemed offside. Meanwhile, up front, Mikey Johnston was given his first Old Firm start and struggled to impose himself against the Rangers backline. While Odsonne Edouard may not have been fully fit, Rodgers may have been better served to start him.
Craig Gordon is still a Scotland threat to Allan McGregor
Scotland’s top two goalkeepers were on show at Ibrox. The man in possession of the national team jersey, McGregor, had an unusually quiet afternoon apart from a good save to deny James Forrest in the first half. Gordon was by far the busier and a string of saves kept Celtic in the game right until the end. His performance will give encouragement to Scotland manager Alex McLeish as he prepares for the European Championship qualifiers next year.
Ticket traumas makes for unusual Old Firm atmosphere
In order to maximise season-ticket sales, Rangers cut Celtic’s allocation to a mere 750, down from the traditional 7,500 tickets. Celtic reciprocated and there was a similar-sized Gers support at Parkhead for the match in September. Once again there was an unusual atmosphere at an Old Firm game. Amid deafening noise at Ibrox as the Gerrard’s side swept forward time and again, the away support in the corner could hardly be heard.