I love Celtic and hate Rangers, but nobody can deny Rangers deserved to win yesterday’s Old Firm match.
Brendan Rodgers in the post-match interview stated plainly. ‘We didn’t play well,’ which is a bit of an understatement. ‘We made too many mistakes.’ Now we’re getting warmer. And most shocking of all. ‘Rangers were better than us.’
Steven Gerard, after the victory, took a line out of Martin O’Neil’s old phrase book. ‘Celtic are the benchmark.’
Celtic have regressed in the last two years and Rangers are better. They currently sit on the same points, with Celtic having a game in hand. A title race is on.
We’ve been here before of course. Remember Rangers win on penalties are Hampden Park in the Scottish Cup under Ronny Deila?
Yesterday’s team is always tomorrow’s dream. Rodger’s track record of domestic dominance, seven trophies out of seven and undefeated in the previous twelve encounters with Rangers, while handing out quite a few scuddings, gives him the kind of leeway that a rookie coach like Deila could never hope for.
But all over the pitch we were rotten yesterday. Craig Gordon was our man of the match, which tells you all you need to know.
Our left back, Calum McGregor, was the only other outfield player that got pass marks. He actually got a shot on target and scored, only for it to be disallowed for offside. He kept his composure when all around him, his Celtic team mates, were losing theirs. That’s why he should have been playing in central midfield where he usually plays. Helping to control the game. Johnnie Hayes should have played left back.
Scott Brown, who has been a top man in these games in the last few years, had one of those games were his nuts were literally in a twist, from a Alfredo Morelos kick.
And on another day Morelos might have been sent off for his stupidity. He’d two other flicks and kicks that went unseen by the referee. But overall Morelos had the run on Filip Benkovic, who had the kind of game where we’d be sending him back to Leicester early and demanding a refund, but it didn’t last, he went off injured.
Mikael Lustig also went off injured at half time. We’ve been saying for two years we need a new right back. Every big game he gets the runaround. Go back over the years and you’ll see a recurrence of Ranger danger comes down the right wing. Here Ryan Kent had Lustig running in circles.
The worst defender of a defence that you couldn’t defend ws Dedryck Boyata. He’s one of the best headers of the ball in Scottish football. The problem is he thinks he’s a football player. Martin O’Neil had a simple plan. Don’t play the ball back to Bobbo, unless you flick it up in the air and he can head it like a seal. The same stipulation should apply to Boyata. Over the years we slated Effie Ambrose for the kinds of mistakes that Boyatta made yesterday and regularly makes. Look no further back that to the 3-2 win at Ibrox, when Boyata had a hand in the two or Ranger’s goals. But such is the paucity of our options that he is being hyped as something special. Bang average on a good day. And yesterday far below the standard you’d expect of a Clyde, never mind a Celtic player.
Which brings us to that other nine-million rated player (figures quotes from supposed bids at the start of the season) Olivier Nitcham. For such a big boy he was bullied all over the park. He looked off pace and in the wrong place, which he was, he shouldn’t have been near the starting eleven. Still young, he needs to improve massively.
Ryan Christie, before his injury, has been a Celtic talisman. The kind of figure that is held up and said if you wait for your chance and you get it, then you’ll get what you deserve. A goal a game man. Unpicking defences. Setting up goals. Playing the balls to the feet of Ranger’s players or out of the park.
Scott Sinclair fresh from his hat-trick against Aberdeen showed exactly why after five minutes here you were better taking him off. He offered nothing. And gave nothing.
James Forest gave honest effort and little guile. He might have been taken off had we enough subs, or enough bodies to fill the jersey.
Mikey Johnston had lived the dream. Coming on to the pitch against Hibs his cameo performance lifted the team. In his last twenty minutes, at Easter Road, Johnstone was Celtic’s best man on the park, which wasn’t saying much. Rodgers got the selection wrong that day too. Johnston had the whole game against Dundee and from the Cruyff-like turn for the first goal to his second headed goal, we could see the kid was something special. We expected him to start against the Dons. He didn’t, but started here. Frozen out by misplaced passes and high balls. The wrong game in so many ways for our light star.
Odsonne Edouard came on for the last half hour. Almost single-handed the striker destroyed the Dons. Should have started. Never started. Never got going.
Kristoffer Ayer came on for Benkovic. Ayer has a bit of previous with Morelos bullying him and the Rangers striker did in the second half what he did in the first to Benkovic, only this time with the six-foot-five Celtic giant. To be fair, Ayer wasn’t the worst.
Anthony Ralston is not a polished performer. I’m not sure if he’s a right back. Neither is Rodgers. But sometimes shear sweat and effort as Rangers showed here can be enough. Ralston was better than Lustig.
Rangers were better than Celtic.