Tuesday 17 October 2017

Celtic take break fired up by shot at making history report

Celtic's Moussa Dembele goes past Rangers James Taverier. Photo credit: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire
Celtic's Moussa Dembele goes past Rangers James Taverier. Photo credit: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Roddy Forsyth

The bad news for the other inhabitants of the Scottish Premiership as they enter 2017 is that Celtic still have a clutch of ambitions in their sights.

Rangers 1 Celtic 2

The champions' win over Rangers in the third Old Firm derby of the season on Hogmanay - the first league collision of the sides at Ibrox since March 2012 - put them 19 points clear as Scotland's top league shuts down for the winter.

Celtic's Dorus de Vries in action with Rangers' Andy Halliday. Photo: Reuters / Russell Cheyne
Celtic's Dorus de Vries in action with Rangers' Andy Halliday. Photo: Reuters / Russell Cheyne

Brendan Rodgers and his players can set a record almost as soon as the campaign resumes with a Scottish Cup tie away to Albion Rovers on January 22.

If they avoid defeat in that, and their first league encounter after the break, at home to St Johnstone, they can surpass the Lisbon Lions' 50-year-old record of 26 undefeated successive domestic games against Hearts at Parkhead on January 29.

Then they can turn their attention to overtaking the record set by Martin O'Neill's Hoops side in 2003-4 with 25 consecutive league victories and also the Ajax achievement of 26 successive victories in top-flight football. Celtic's current run is 15 since they were last deprived of points in a 2-2 draw at Inverness on September 18.

In the 2003-04 season, Celtic set a Scottish league record total of 103 points. The leaders' tally stands at 58 and, while they might not garner the possible haul of 112 points, they have a margin for error.

Rangers' Rob Kiernan in action. Photo: Reuters / Russell Cheyne
Rangers' Rob Kiernan in action. Photo: Reuters / Russell Cheyne

And, of course, Celtic are favourites to achieve a clean sweep of domestic honours - last accomplished in 2001, again by O'Neill's side - an achievement which now effectively boils down to them winning five Scottish Cup ties, beginning with their encounter with Albion Rovers at Airdrie's Excelsior Stadium.

Celtic's most constricted potential achievement could also be the most deeply appreciated by their supporters - a whitewash of Rangers in derbies, for which the score is currently 3-0 in their favour, with two league games and, perhaps, also a Scottish Cup tie to come before the end of the season.

Rangers put up more of a show than in their 5-1 league defeat at Celtic Park in September or their 1-0 loss in the Scottish League Cup semi-final at Hampden Park in October, and they were value for the early 1-0 lead posted by Kenny Miller.

Possession was 50-50 but Rangers were deprived of reward by goals on either side of the interval by Moussa Dembélé and Scott Sinclair, both of whom had been identified by Rodgers as big-match performers.

Celtic's Stuart Armstrong and Rangers' Joss Windass compete for the ball. Photo credit: Craig Watson/PA Wire
Celtic's Stuart Armstrong and Rangers' Joss Windass compete for the ball. Photo credit: Craig Watson/PA Wire

It was an oddity of the contest that Miller, Dembélé and Sinclair all had efforts come off the post or crossbar and, although Celtic had the greater share of efforts on target, Rangers players were entitled to relish the thought that had they had sufficient opportunities to put an end to their arch-foes' unbeaten sequence.

Moment

Rodgers took a moment to speak to Barrie McKay as the player left the pitch. "He came over to me and told me I'd played really well," McKay said.

"He said I was tremendous and told me to keep my head up. He didn't need to do that. He stepped away from his team's celebrations to speak to me. I've had opposition managers do that to me before, but never after an Old Firm game."

It was a similarly targeted word to the wise from Rodgers that boosted Stuart Armstrong, perhaps Celtic's most improved performer this season.

"I can speak from personal experience," said the midfielder. "He gave me something to work for and let me play in my favourite position. He has done that with other players and we look like a completely different team to what we did last year.

"Now we've got a chance for a bit of a rest before we get back at it again. We have our own targets and goals and we stick to those." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

 

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