Celtic were expected to win the last Old Firm clash of 2016 and they did, scoring two goals to Rangers one. But it wasn’t quite as easy as the last few meetings in which Celtic dominated from start to finish. Here Rangers scored first. We all know the rules. If the diddy team is going to win they must score first and their keeper must play brilliantly. Tick. Tick. Things go awry with the Tic. Wes Fotheringham has been brilliant for Rangers. Motherwell recently did it better at Fir Park. Bang, bang and the Steelmen were two up, hitting on the breakaway and cruising. Chris Sutton recently caused some controversy among ex-professional football players and commentary pundits by naming almost the entire Celtic first team as the best players available for the starting eleven positions in Scotland. He omitted Craig Gordon and Emilio Izagurre, both whom are back to their best and were Celtic’s best performers here, which was a calculated mistake on Sutton’s part. Mikael Lustig has played the last few games in the centre of defence and perhaps that would be a better option, because he took a roasting, particularly early in the game from Barrie McKay, who was Ranger’s best player by quite some distance. Erik Sviatchenko also had a nervy start, and passed to blue shirt to concede possession forty yards from goal. Josh Windass (whose dad thinks he’s the best player in European football) played a pass inside to an overlapping James Tavernier and a ball to the back post had Lustig, Joso Simunovic and Sviatchenko standing like the three stooges as Kenny Miller came hurtling it into the net.
I’m still not convinced about Simunovic. He’s six-foot four and still not scored for Celtic. You might think, aye, but he’s defender. But Lustig can win balls in the air and score goals with the head, as has Sviatchenko. Of course, we were spoiled by Van Dijk, the best header of the ball since Paul Elliot and the irreproachable Bobo Bolde, but the former was better with the ball at his feet, as was the latter and mostly everybody else that could put their boots on the right feet and tie their laces in a bow. Simunovic frequently gets beaten in the air, which should be his strong suit and Kenny Miller, hardly a Godzilla, or Bobo Balde, figure was at it here. Of Celtic’s back four, only Izzagurre was playing well in the first thirty minutes. Further forward Callum McGregor was posted missing and missed a sitter. James Forest against Danny Wilson. That should have been reet-peteet-the-best-girl-I-should-ever-meet, or some kind of show tune, but was a slow tune and the man with no neck was hiding inside a Celtic jersey.
Moussa Dembele scored bringing the ball down on his chest and lashing home to equalise from a Scott Sinclair corner, who a minute before, in another breakaway, had hit the inside of the post (but should really have scored). Sinclair missed another few chances, as did Moussa and Stuart Armstrong and even Emilio. The second half was better for Celtic. Rangers were gifting the ball. Patrick Roberts on for Forest picked up a ball from a blue shirt, threads the ball to Armstrong and it’s a back post tap in for Sinclair. He contrived to miss another few.
Kenny Miller on the back pages tells how he was hunted by that miss near the end of the game. Aye, admittedly, he should have scored, but what he forgets is he’s Kenny Miller and if he was a better player he’d be playing for a better team, like Celtic. Oh, aye, he did that as well, but we gave him a free after he scored about five goals in a season under Strachan. He can kiss the badge now in the knowledge he’s at his level and playing for the right team.
Dembele’s cameo at the end summed it all up. He held the ball at the corner flag for five minutes and Ranger’s defenders couldn’t get it off him with fouling him and sometimes that didn’t work either, because he ran past them. Not bad for a £500 000 investment. Celtic were missing their best attacking midfielder in Tom Rogic. And Rangers were missing Joey Barton. I guess that balances the books. Happy New Year and all that.
The best joke, of course, was the way the Celtic fans left the Ranger’s toilets, leaving plenty of smelling salts and thousands of glowing red prayer candles. If a Chinese consortium comes in and buys Rangers they have a prayer, until then they have Hun hell and Celtic will continue to scud it into them. Long may your lum reek.