by Martin Odoni
29th August, Ibrox Stadium
Rangers 1-0 Celtic
Both Old Firm sides have looked a little erratic and vulnerable at the start of this campaign. But even so, Celtic had a look of winners about them going into their crunch show-down. With Celtic goals as abundant as rain from a Scottish sky, the Bhoys had far more impetus than their bitter rivals.
Rangers also entered the match under the cloud of racist singing from a group of their fans, directed at Celtic’s new favourite goal machine, Kyogo Furuhashi. If embarrassment limits performance, that might have preyed on Rangers minds. Credit to their professionalism, it did not. But then nothing met expectation on the day.
The expectation was Furuhashi to give makeshift right-back Leon Balugon a torrid day. Balugon instead had his best game in a Rangers shirt.
The expectation was that Ryan Kent would devastate from the flank for Rangers. Instead, Celtic’s Anthony Ralston neutralised him for most of the match.
The expectation was that with Rangers weakened by Covid absences, Celtic should have the edge in the key battles. Instead, Rangers’ tackling was the sharper, their discipline the tighter.
The expectation was that Rangers just would not be able to hold off Celtic’s highscoring attack. Instead, Celtic failed to find the net even once, despite scoring twelve in the two previous games.
It was a typically vibrant Old Firm derby, full of spirit and competition. With both teams having to improvise at the back, the stage seemed set for a goal-fest. Instead it was tight and closely-fought. It was never dull or unwatchable, but makeshift defenders outshone established attackers.
The game turned on two second half moments, demonstrating the one big difference between the teams; Rangers were more clinical. Firstly Odsonne Edouard, about to join Crystal Palace, somehow missed a glorious chance from close range. We may never figure out how he missed the goal from there. It was like jumping out of an aeroplane and missing the Earth. Palace will be praying that does not prove typical of his finishing this season. Then on 65 minutes came the only goal. A Borna Barisic corner found its way to Filip Helander, whose leap almost seemed to yell, “THIS IS MINE!“ His header powered past Joe Hart into the Celtic net.
There were still chances late on for Celtic to steal a point, but their shooting was quite erratic. Equally, their decision-making at crucial moments, especially from Furuhashi, was not good either.
After a difficult couple of weeks, the Glasgow bragging rights belong to Rangers. It is their seventh derby on the bounce without defeat. They are now three points above Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, and just one behind the two Edinburgh clubs.
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