Rangers went into yesterday’s game with no less than eight first team players missing and seemingly being told, yet again, that this was the game that Celtic’s class would finally shine through. It was the fifth meeting of the sides this season and despite Celtic not winning against us since 2019, they were tipped once again to do it here.
In October it was Covid to blame, at New Year it was the referee to blame and even just a fortnight ago it was ‘We didn’t have Forrest’ so that was all put aside as Celtic displayed their strongest eleven as they rolled into the home of the champions attempting to cut the deficit to a mere seventeen points.
Rangers changed their set up slightly as Kemar Roofe won the last place, arguably, up for grabs and he joined Alfredo Morelos playing directly up against their central defenders. That allowed Ryan Kent to play in the space behind and he tormented Celtic all afternoon. His skill and direct running was impossible for them to handle and the space he exploited worked perfectly as he ran riot all afternoon.
But it would be Allan McGregor who showed his class by tipping a long range strike superbly onto the cross bar as Celtic broke away in a game Rangers had largely controlled in the early part. It was another outstanding save from our number one in a superb season where at times he has defied the odds with so many top saves.
Rangers used that platform to strike first and great overloading on the left from Morelos, Barisic, Kamara and Kent freed up the latter to glide past Brown like he wasn’t there, the loose ball broke to Kamara who was crudely wiped out by already cautioned Callum McGregor and Joe Aribo fed it to Kent. His goal bound shot was brilliantly deflected in off the chest of Kemar Roofe and the Champions were 1-0 up, it was an excellent skilled finish by the striker. But in a double delight Callum McGregor was correctly shown a second yellow and subsequent red with the visitors reduced to ten (the only ten they will see anytime soon).
But they did equalise immediately when a deep cross found Ajer to head across to Edouard who would head in from close range. It was poor from Rangers and Simpson in particular who lost Ajer and Borna who banged into Goldson allowing Edouard to get free.
That kicked Rangers on and they were back ahead within minutes with wonderful skill by Alfredo Morelos as he megged Scott Brown and fired home superbly. We had to wait for the Buffs first Rangers goal in this fixture but now that it’s here there is no stopping him. This goal was a cracker as he lashed home and with very little back lift.
Rangers would dominate the second half with Celtic producing a few openings on the break. It will probably concern the management that they managed that but more a consequence of Rangers selection issues and having so many key players unavailable. Rangers were soft on occasion when they allowed players to run through them and that was my only concern in an afternoon which was largely a stroll.
The third tied it up and it was lovely play from Rangers. Camped in the final third they switched it around well with Davis knocking it to Alfredo who switched it out to Kent. The trademark step over and he found Roofe who expertly twisted back on himself and fed it out to Borna before bursting into the box. Barisic then expertly hung it up for Roofe to bullet a header home which had me reminiscing of a Trevor Steven championship winning header at Tannadice many years ago.
It was an outstanding goal and exactly what Kemar Roofe can do. He has tremendous numbers but I haven’t always been impressed by what he has had to offer. He is of undoubted quality but it had been several months before he has shown anything close to his best. Rangers need to keep him fit and firing because on that form he is quality but he has to show that desire every game because he is that good.
The fourth would come in the dying stages as wonderkid Soro gifted it straight to Davis who’s one touch pass found Hagi and his perfect pass released Jermain Defoe. The veteran striker showed all his class as he left Welsh scrambling around the floor as he twisted in and out. The ball would then break free and JD rolled it expertly in with his left foot, arguably it was the moment we all wanted.
Jermain Defoe has been brilliant for Rangers and I would be delighted if he stayed here for another season on the right money. He has the professionalism and attitude to guarantee goals whenever he plays. Whatever the management decide his time at Rangers has been a brilliant one and I have enjoyed every minute of it. If yesterday was his last hurrah then it was a splendid one.
Ibrox would have been rocking.
It was a brilliant afternoon and one we all thoroughly enjoyed as Rangers took Celtic apart time and time again. Ryan Kent was sensational all afternoon and his skill was similar to that of legends like Laudrup and Cooper. They can’t live with him and he owns them entirely.
This was a Rangers team that had been rubbished by many, we were told only yesterday they were ‘mentally weak’ and yet the tabloids wonder just why they are given limited access.
If you had the misfortune of catching the BBC’s Sportscene coverage then they didn’t even bother to cover Rangers third and fourth goals in their pundits assessment after the highlights. It was all about our opposition and a tribute to their captain with his goals against us over ten years ago.
It’s embarrassing yet Rangers are supposed to entertain these platforms and give them access?
I was delighted to read, from David Edgar and Heart and Hand platform, Rangers refused Andy Walker access due to his recent comments on Rangers financial situation. Rangers don’t want specialised coverage, we just ask for fair coverage and not people inventing narrative to suit their own agenda.
In the coming weeks we have Livi then Aberdeen to try and get over 100pts with an invincible league campaign. It would be a fantastic campaign considering everything that has went on. Rangers have shown we still need to improve with the disappointment of the cup performance. But three defeats in 55 games has been extremely costly and harsh for the team.
But those are the levels of this club and we must strive to always improve in every way we can. There is no doubts we are the country’s best team and best eleven but the strongest position to improve is always from a position of strength.
The message is always clear from everyone at the club;
Never stop and never stand still.
It was a glorious Sunday for everyone connected with the club and as the manager says ‘We will get stronger and this is only the beginning’.
4-1 and a Sunday stroll for the Champions.