An Old Firm derby is always a must-win game for both the sides but Rangers desperately needed the three points to keep themselves in the hunt for the title. That is precisely what they did as they outplayed Celtic at Ibrox to secure a 1-0 victory. The scoreline might suggest that the game was a closely fought encounter, but it was far from it as Celtic never managed to turn up at Ibrox.
What went right for Rangers?
The biggest boost Gerrard got was before the game as he welcomed back the likes of Ryan Kent and Scott Arfield to the lineup. Both of them played a significant role in the win, and Ryan Kent was the real difference maker in the final third.
It was a surprise to see the Liverpool loanee in action as he wasn’t involved in the matchday squad for quite some time and this was just his second game in two months. It seems clear that Gerrard was protecting him for this tie and Kent returned the favour big time.
Same goes for Scott Arfield as he replaced Lassana Coulibaly in the lineup. The Canadian international used his experience well, and his pressing and reading of the game were out of this world. Arfield clearly dominated the battle of the Scott’s in midfield as he harassed and pressed Brown.
The veteran Celtic captain has often called the shots in games like these, and it was clear that Gerrard had a plan for him in this game as they didn’t give Brown breathing space and Arfield deserves some major credit for that. To be fair, all the midfielders worked their socks off and winning the midfield battle was key to Rangers’ victory.
It was clear which team wanted the win and was hungry for all three points. Maybe Rodgers thought that this Rangers side would sit back and try to hit them on the counter, but that wasn’t the case. After the first 10 minutes, it was clear that Celtic would have to change things. Credit to Gerrard for Rangers playing in such a fashion as that definitely took the Hoops boss by surprise. The apprentice here definitely turned the master.
What went wrong for Celtic?
Kieran Tierney wasn’t fit enough to start the game and Rodgers opted to go in with Callum McGregor at left back. One of their best ball playing midfielders spent most of the game in his half trying to win the ball back, and that was a major mistake from the manager. Jonny Hayes should have been preferred in the left back role.
With Rangers pressing high up the pitch, Rodgers needed to change something, but he wasn’t able to do that. Michael Johnston was playing up front, and there was no out ball for the midfielders or defenders as Johnston didn’t have the physicality to keep hold of the ball. Maybe the former Liverpool manager could have risked playing Odsonne Edouard from the start and could have substituted him in the second half.
Those were the mistakes on Rodgers’ part, but it is clear that he couldn’t be blamed for the performance of some of his players. Dedryck Boyata was awful, and maybe with the January transfer window around the corner, he might be thinking of a move away. It was a pity that a team with such quality wasn’t able to stick two passes together for the most parts of the game. Boyata, Olivier Ntcham, Scott Brown, Scott Sinclair and Mikael Lustig were all major culprits. Maybe they thought that they would turn up at Ibrox and Rangers would roll over, but that wasn’t the case.
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