Sunday 25 August 2019

Gerrard steers Rangers to Ibrox derby double over Lennon's complacent Celtic

Rangers 2 Celtic 0

Rangers James Tavernier celebrates scoring his side's first goal. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Rangers James Tavernier celebrates scoring his side's first goal. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Roddy Forsyth

The outcome of the final Old Firm derby of the season posed a singular question. Which manager is more likely to be in place next season - Steven Gerrard, with nothing to show for a full campaign in charge of Rangers, or Neil Lennon, whose team selection was made with one eye on steering Celtic to a third successive clean sweep of the Scottish honours?

In reality, Gerrard's position is impregnable. He fulfilled the first part of his remit by directing Rangers to the group stage of the Europa League and his players have now won consecutive derbies at Ibrox for the first time since 2012.

Rangers inflicted Celtic's first domestic defeat of 2019 and took their current run of league wins to six on the spin with goals from James Tavernier and Scott Arfield.

Kieran Tierney was not risked by Lennon, nor did James Forrest appear, while Scott Sinclair was on the bench. Jonny Hayes moved back to fill the Tierney gap and the other replacements were Mikey Johnston and Oliver Burke, neither of whom were effective.

Johnston's first contribution - a foul on Ryan Kent near the edge of the box - proved costly when Tavernier struck a curling free-kick beyond Scott Bain into the bottom corner of the net within two minutes.

For much of the match the sole concern for the home support was the lack of a second goal, an anxiety that was relieved just after the hour mark. Glen Kamara created the opening with a deft dummy to leave Scott Brown wrong-footed and his angled pass forward was dummied by Jermain Defoe for Arfield to bear away from Kristoffer Ajer and place his low finish beyond Bain.

Rangers Ryan Kent (left) challenges Celtic's Mikael Lustig. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Rangers Ryan Kent (left) challenges Celtic's Mikael Lustig. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Afterwards, Gerrard revealed that he and Dave King, the Rangers chairman, had held fruitful talks in recent days. "Everything is OK, everything is fine. I'm satisfied with what I've heard. We've analysed the season together. It was very positive," said Gerrard.

Prospect

"The end of the season has come at a bad time for us because we're in a great place and in good shape but it's important we rest, physically and mentally, and get ready."

Lennon, meanwhile, was dismayed about Celtic's showing, though optimistic about the prospect of achieving another domestic treble against Hearts in the Scottish Cup final. "That performance was unacceptable, even though they've been brilliant for a long period of time," he said.

Rangers Scott Arfield scores his side's second goal of the game. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Rangers Scott Arfield scores his side's second goal of the game. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

"We were looking for a reaction at half-time and didn't get one, but they have a huge cup final looming in two weeks and places up for grabs, so that should be motivation enough for them."

Irish Independent

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