Friday 24 November 2017

Celtic hand first blood to McCoist

Rangers 4 , Celtic 2, Roddy Forsyth

A contest of blood and blunder at Ibrox saw the former drawn by Ally McCoist in his first Old Firm derby as a manager and the latter committed by his goalkeeper with an error that will go viral in its online replays.

Rangers' victory was unquestionably aided by the dismissal of Charlie Mulgrew late in the proceedings, but by that stage they were ahead for the second time and looking likely to extend their advantage.

More significantly for Celtic, too many individuals failed to deliver on this most demanding of occasions and Neil Lennon's team stuttered when he needed it to purr, although they had gone into the interval with a lead despite falling behind to Steven Naismith's spectacular strike midway through the first half.

While both sides hit the goal frame after the break, the second 45 minutes belonged to Rangers and they were value for their success.

Many Celtic fans must have groaned when they saw that Anthony Stokes had not quite assured Lennon that he had the match fitness to start and that Gary Hooper would have Georgios Samaras for company in attack.

This is a pairing that has never convinced and nothing witnessed yesterday advanced the argument that they make a combination likely to frighten opposing defenders.

For much of the proceedings the Greek forward was a ringer for his country's economy -- undermined by a lack of productivity.

By contrast, Hooper put himself about to some effect, never more so than shortly after the half-hour mark.

Celtic fell behind on 22 minutes, as Kelvin Wilson misplaced an attempted clearance straight to Naismith and the Rangers midfielder thrashed his drive with brio high past Fraser Forster.

Lennon's Bhoys continued to toil until their fortunes were transformed dramatically by two serious defensive lapses at the other end of the field.

Scott Brown took possession from Badr Al Kaddouri and switched a deft pass to the feet of Hooper, who was so unhindered as he placed his finish precisely beyond Allan McGregor that most eyes turned towards the assistant referee to check for an offside decision.

The flag stayed down and the tide of the game swung. Now it was Rangers who looked bemused and Celtic who began to affect a swagger.

Nobody, however, could have foreseen how they would move in front within seven minutes.

menacing

Al Kaddouri, increasingly bold, cut inside near the Rangers box and decided it would be worth having a pop. His shot was respectable but in no way menacing and, as it ambled towards him, McGregor dropped on one knee to collect, a yard in front of his right-hand post.

Certainty was transformed into incredulity, however, as McGregor contrived to allow the ball to squirt through his grasp and through the modicum of space between him and the post.

Again, both sets of fans blinked in disbelief.

In the short time that remained until the interval, Rangers looked shell-shocked and McCoist was required to summon his motivational powers in the dressing-room.

That he had said something to powerful effect was swiftly evident because 45 seconds after the restart Steven Davis uncorked a soaring drive that arced on to the junction of post and crossbar.

As Rangers continued to surge, Mulgrew looked increasingly short of composure.

Having already been cautioned, he committed two fouls in quick succession and looked like a man dancing on the edge of a precipice.

Rangers then drew level with a goal that mimicked Atletico Madrid's opener against Celtic on Thursday.

From a corner-kick Davis found Nikica Jelavic unmarked in the box and the Croatian's header on the bounce swept beyond the exposed Forster.

Celtic looked rattled, but once more they might have altered the flow of fortune when Glenn Loovens met a Mulgrew corner-kick with a header that slapped back off the upright.

The Celtic fans' cheers had scarcely died down when Rangers went back in front. Jelavic's header from a Gregg Wylde cross was blocked and fell to Kyle Lafferty.

It took the Northern Irishman three attempts to find his mark but perseverance paid with his first goal against Celtic.

A quarter of the proceedings remained, but Rangers began to indulge their dominance and, when Mulgrew took one chance too many with an unwarranted risky challenge on Davis, the game was theirs.

As four minutes of injury-time neared their end, Davis crossed the ball from the left and Naismith responded with a perfect break into the box to sidefoot beyond Forster. Rangers were home, hosed and four points clear of their fiercest rivals.

Irish Independent

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