Steven Gerrard believes Rangers’ first league success over Celtic since 2012 can be the springboard to them threatening the Parkhead club’s seven-year strangehold on the title.
The 1-0 scoreline did not reflect the dominance of the home side who enjoyed their first success in this fixture since the penalty shoot-out win in the Scottish Cup semi-final of April 2016.
It is a result that has breathed new life in to the joust for the Premiership crown. Four teams are now separated by only three points at the top of the table, with Rangers drawing level on points with Celtic, and Kilmarnock a point behind in third place. Aberdeen have 39.
The champions retain their position at the summit on goal difference and have played a game fewer than both Rangers and Killie.
Gerrard considers that the ability of his players to bring their A game to a fixture that has so often found them Z-listers in recent times can point the way forward to a serious challenge for the title.
“To a man all over the pitch we were better than Celtic – we won every single one v one,” said Gerrard. “Listen, Celtic are still the favourites. They are still the team to catch and beat. I’m not going to sit here and brag because we’ve beat Celtic once. We have respect for the opposition and the other teams in the league. It’s a very difficult league and Celtic are still the favourites. But what we have shown today is that when we find a level then we are more than a match for them. We proved that in this 90 minutes as we were excellent.
“There’s still la lot of improvement and growing needed from us, but we need to take confidence and belief from that performance. That’s the level we’re looking for. I’ve seen signs and performances which have been close to today, but maybe not from start to finish like this. The timing is really good.
“That’s six months now together and everything we’ve been trying to do on the training pitch and in games has come out today. And it’s been enough to get a big win. Celtic are a fantastic team and there are other strong teams in the league pushing as well.
“It was a fixture we dare not lose, because the gap would have been very damaging. A draw wasn’t helpful either. So it’s the result we want and it puts us closer to where we want to be, but there’s no getting away from it, we still need to get better.”
Gerrard, pictured, will now look to do that by bolstering his squad during the three-week winter shut-down but yesterday he was given warrior-like displays by two players he inherited in goalscorer Ryan Jack and auxiliary left-back Andy Halliday.
“Ryan is one I trust,” he said. “He’s been excellent. Every time he plays he’s been consistent. He had a torrid season last year, missing six months, so he’s making up for lost time. But he’s one I rely on and trust. He’s been excellent for myself and Rangers from day one and was really strong today. He deserves to be the match winner.
“Andy deserves this moment, too. He’s been on the end of some really tough Old Firm results. He’s Rangers mad, he’s Rangers daft, and been excellent for me. If I’ve called on him to start and do a job out of position he’s done it. He’s been professional on and off the pitch. He earned the right to start this game. Andy had the most difficult job of our XI in stopping a player in form, James Forrest, who is a top player. Tonight is about the fans but Andy is a fan.”
Jack made a beeline for one particular fan on scoring the first goal of his 18-month Rangers career on the half hour mark. “I was looking for my daughter [four-year-old Madison],” he explained.
“She always asks me why I never score. I said to her that when I do score I would dedicate it to her, so that one was for her. I could see where she was sitting – her face was delighted. I’m delighted too.”