Rangers Rangers 'Fireworks derby out' after fizzled that
Sun, 21 Mar 2021 12:00:00 +0000
Neither Celtic nor Rangers were at their best in an underwhelming third Old Firm derby of the season, writes Alasdair Lamont
Last updated on .From the section Scottish Premiership
Fireworks all across town signalled the end of this Old Firm derby, having been absent from a game that fizzled out like a cheap Roman candle.
Of course, the 1-1 draw was a far more satisfactory result for the Rangers supporters peppering the blue afternoon skies with all manner of artillery, as it ensured they remain on course to end the Scottish Premiership season unbeaten.
Their side was second best for significant periods of this encounter, yet they came away from Celtic Park for the third game in a row with something to show for their efforts.
The onus had been on Celtic to give a better account of themselves than they had done for much of this season, to restore a modicum of pride.
And at times they did.
The period around their opening goal was one of real dominance, with the link-up between Odsonne Edouard, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie causing the champions genuine discomfort.
But an inability to turn that dominance into commanding leads is something that has become a recurring theme; one of a number of issues that ultimately cost Neil Lennon his job.
Sure, they can point to some good goalkeeping from Allan McGregor and a penalty claim at 1-0 that could have gone their way had referee Willie Collum felt Borna Barisic made contact with Edouard.
In isolation, you could have some sympathy with that argument, but when it happens several times over the course of a season, it's not simply a case of bad luck on the day.
Nor did it have much to do with a fabulous defensive performance from Rangers, who were penetrated time and again down their right side and who also failed to command their own area from set-pieces.
But with McGregor in good form once again, they remain on track to better the 107-year-old record of fewest goals conceded in a league season.
Elyounoussi's header was just the 10th goal Rangers have lost in the league, meaning if they let in three or fewer in their final five games, they will beat Celtic's record of 14 against in 1914.
That is a quite phenomenal position to be in, in a season that has surpassed all expectation for those of a Rangers bent.
After the physically and emotionally draining events of Thursday and the aftermath of the defeat by Slavia Prague, Rangers were perhaps understandably short of their best at Celtic Park.
That is not to say they were steamrollered.
They had opportunities of their own beyond the equaliser to pile on their hosts' misery.
Their hard work was already done and they will go into the international break very content with their afternoon's work – no one more so than Alfredo Morelos.
His delight at finally breaking his duck against Celtic was clear and, with five goals in his last five league games, the Colombian has returned to form in front of goal to complement his improved link play.
There will be renewed interest in him this summer and, while Rangers fans will be keen to see him spearhead their Champions League challenge, few would now begrudge him a move if anyone can match the club's valuation.
Before all that, there is the small matter of a Scottish Cup to be won.
Having ended Celtic's stranglehold on the league, Steven Gerrard will be desperate to do likewise in the cup and that is where attentions turn after the upcoming internationals.
Similarly, Celtic will want some consolation from this tumultuous season and, if John Kennedy has ambitions of taking the manager's job permanently, what better way to make your case than a Scottish Cup win?
Certainly he can point to some decent displays in his games in charge, but a piece of silverware would underline his credentials.
One issue he would do well to address before the end of the season, though, is Celtic's continuing fragility at set-plays, which came back to haunt them again as they lost that equaliser.
Kennedy insisted that to dwell on that would detract from an otherwise dominant performance from his side but, on reflection, he and his coaching staff must get to the bottom of why so many of the goals they have conceded this season have come from such situations.
Remedy that and they have a real opportunity of turning defeats and draws into victories.
As it was, the champions made the nine-in-a-row winners pay and the bragging rights remain very much theirs.
There may have been no guard of honour before the game, but a greater sign of respect and class was shown by Celtic's captain Scott Brown as he sought out Glen Kamara for a pre-match embrace in solidarity with a rival who had suffered so inhumanely on Thursday.
There will never be any love lost between the two clubs, but Brown's act rose above the pettiness of a football rivalry and sent a message that the fight against racism transcends this particular divide.
Neither Celtic nor Rangers were at their best in an underwhelming third Old Firm derby of the season, writes Alasdair Lamont.
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Sun, 21 Mar 2021 12:00:00 +0000
Rangers remain on track to complete the league season undefeated after fighting back for a draw at Parkhead
Support: Brown and Kamara (pic: SNS Group)
Rangers remain on track to complete the league season undefeated after fighting back for a draw at Parkhead.
Celtic missed a number of chances, Odsonne Edouard was booked for diving amid penalty claims and Alfredo Morelos scored his first goal in an Old Firm derby.
The biggest talking point, though, came before the game when Celtic captain Scott Brown embraced Rangers star Glen Kamara during the warm-up to show his support for the midfielder in the wake of the alleged racist abuse he was subjected to in the Europa League clash against Slavia Prague.
Speaking of his displeasure at the incident after the draw which kept newly-crowned champions Rangers 20 points ahead of their rivals, Brown said: “I think it’s disgusting what’s happened.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a Rangers player or a Celtic player.
Whoever it is, it should never be part of the game.
And that just showed that we are with them, we stand with them on racism.
“It’s just that little bit of respect to a fellow professional.”
Both teams refused to take the knee prior to kick-off, instead deciding to stand in support of the fight against racism and Celtic manager John Kennedy echoed his skipper’s sentiments.
He said: “This is not about rivalries, derbies, opposition teams or anything else.
This about unity, about coming together and trying to make a difference.
It has gone on too long.
“It seems to be happening more and more even though there is more education and news about it.
It is spoken about more and more.
I don’t know if it is because of that, but there seems to be more of it happening.
It is not acceptable, absolutely not acceptable.
“What happens is you give someone, whoever it might be, a punishment for it, a severe punishment at that, it will quickly eradicate it.”
Both goals game in the first half, Celtic taking the lead through Mohamed Elyounoussi after 23 minutes, Morelos levelling things 15 minutes later.
Alex Neil, meanwhile, has become the latest person linked with the role of long-term successor to Neil Lennon after his departure from Preston North End.
Boost: Van Der Merwe and Hogg celebrate (pic: SNS Group).
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Game on: Celtic v Rangers (pic: SNS Group).
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Rangers 2021 39;Fireworks after derby that fizzled out39;
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