Celtic 5 - 0 Rangers: Celtic crush rivals to secure title
Celtic continue to take Brendan '¨Rodgers at his word as he demands they write their own history at the club.
They have clinched titles in more dramatic circumstances since they first became champions of Scotland 125 years ago but seldom, if ever, can it have tasted as sweet for their supporters as the manner in which they wrapped up their 49th domestic crown.
Rodgers’ players surged across the finishing line in the most emphatic style imaginable, inflicting a fresh dose of abject misery on a ragged Rangers side now floundering in their bid to even finish runners-up in the Premiership.
This was Celtic’s biggest-ever winning margin in an Old Firm league fixture as they yet again hammered home just how much of a gulf currently exists between the clubs.
It was another wretched afternoon for outgoing manager Graeme Murty, hot on the heels of the 4-0 Scottish Cup semi-final defeat at Hampden a fortnight earlier. As the Rangers board pursue Steven Gerrard as his replacement, they can only hope the one-sided nature of this 90 minutes doesn’t scare off the former Liverpool and England captain.
Odsonne Edouard was tormentor-in-chief of the Ibrox side, the young French striker scoring Celtic’s first two goals and running the visitors ragged. James Forrest, Tom Rogic and Callum McGregor completed a rout which might easily have been even more humiliating for Rangers.
This would have been a daunting assignment for them in any circumstances and Murty’s cause wasn’t helped by a training-ground injury to Declan John which meant Andy Halliday stepping in to deputise at left-back.
The visitors were already without first-choice goalkeeper Wes Foderingham, meaning an Old Firm baptism of fire for Jak Alnwick, and there was a predictably jittery look to their defence which Celtic were only too happy to feast upon.
Rodgers’ men had all the intensity and motivation you would expect of a team presented with the prospect of wrapping up a title in front of their own fans and against their greatest rivals. Rangers were simply overrun in midfield where Graham Dorrans endured an especially torrid afternoon, appearing off the pace and guilty of conceding possession cheaply. The drive of Scott Brown and Olivier Ntcham, complemented by the guile of Rogic and energy of McGregor, allowed Celtic to dictate the tempo and pattern of play as they wished for long spells.
The only surprising aspect of the first half was that it took as long as 15 minutes for Celtic to make the breakthrough. They created a procession of chances from the opening moments as they looked to put Alnwick under pressure.
There was certainly no gentle introduction to the fixture for the Rangers keeper. When he punched clear a McGregor corner in the third minute, he was relieved to see Ntcham’s follow-up shot blocked.
Forrest then saw an effort deflected just off target before Alnwick had to scramble to his left to claw another shot from Ntcham wide. Rangers were being hemmed in and it needed an alert defensive header from Halliday to prevent Forrest getting on the end of a delightful McGregor cross, all of this before ten minutes had elapsed.
Any hopes Rangers had of riding out the early storm evaporated when Edouard put Celtic in front. The striker had been guilty of being too selfish a couple of minutes earlier when he chose to take on a shot, deflected wide, when a pass to the unmarked Rogic was clearly a better option.
But Edouard’s timing was perfect when he raced into the six-yard box ahead of Dorrans to get on the end of Kieran Tierney’s low cross and slam the ball home. Celtic were off and running. This already looked like a long, painful afternoon for Rangers.
They did flirt briefly with the notion of making a genuine contest of it, Jason Holt forcing Craig Gordon into a decent save as they tried to find a positive response to falling behind. But from the moment Celtic made it 2-0 three minutes before the interval, it simply became a question of how wide their winning margin would be.
Rangers were actually in a promising position in the build-up to the goal but when Dorrans gave the ball away, Forrest pounced and launched a rapid counter-attack down the right. He slipped a pass to Edouard who easily got away from Russell Martin and drove a right foot-shot across Alnwick into the far corner of the net.
The title party was already in full swing among the home fans and it was cranked up another gear when Celtic scored their third on the stroke of half-time. It was the sweetest of moments for Forrest who finally claimed his first goal in this fixture in his 16th appearance against Rangers. Collecting the ball wide on the right, the winger surged beyond three half-hearted challenges and drove a low shot beyond the exposed Alnwick.
There would be little respite for Rangers as Celtic made it 4-0 less than two minutes after the restart. Forrest was the catalyst, setting up McGregor for a shot which was blocked. The ball eventually broke into the path of Rogic who coolly curled it to Alnwick’s left and into the corner of the net.
Celtic’s devastating burst of scoring continued, McGregor grabbing No 5 in the 53rd minute. Edouard turned provider this time, beating James Tavernier all too easily on the left and setting up a close-range finish from McGregor.
Those Rangers supporters who displayed a unique form of masochism by remaining in the ground for the rest of the 90 minutes must have feared they would witness even greater humiliation being heaped upon their team.
But a combination of some fine saves from Alnwick, who kept out close-range efforts from Ntcham, Forrest and Rogic, and Celtic gradually taking their foot off the pedal as the second half wore on prevented the champions from adding further to their tally.