Thursday, August 11, 2022

A Neutral Fan Breaks Down The Old Firm Derby And Why Rangers Are Likely To Leave Celtic Behind

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Bernard Ford
A Leicester City fan. Wants respect from the 'London based' media for clubs outside the bubble.

Disclaimer right off the bat, I don’t support either Rangers or Celtic. The Old Firm derby is a fixture that a majority of the world’s more passionate football fans keep an eye out for, and I was no different. However, few would’ve expected to see Celtic reaching such a state, and that too with the club on the brink of making history. The dream of ten in a row was well and truly alive at the start of the season, but now, as the world enters 2021 with a reinvigorated glimmer of hope, Celtic fans have reason to be concerned. So, how did the fixture between Celtic and Rangers play out?

Although it can be argued that Celtic were the better team in the fixture, a statement of that sort will do very little to help Neil Lennon’s side. The struggles have been evident since the start of the season, and for me, that is down to poor managership. Until about a month or so ago, Celtic’s Norwegian sensation Mohamed Elyounoussi was undoubtedly their best player, and just because the team started winning matches without him in the side, it doesn’t mean that having him in it is the cause for their issues.

Any follower of the beautiful game who understands statistics and tactics will also know that Celtic have been the masters of their own downfall this season, and Neil Lennon must take a large chunk of the blame for that. Steven Gerrard, on the other hand, has managed the situation so well, that even some Rangers fans are surprised by how well they’re going. Yet to face defeat in the Premiership, the Celtic faithful were undoubtedly hopeful that they could hand Rangers their first loss of the campaign, and although they looked in line to do that, fate seemed to play its part in the process once again.

How Did The Fixture Between Celtic And Rangers Play Out - Rangers and Celtic
Rangers v Celtic – Scottish Premiership – Ibrox Stadium Tempers flare between both teams during the Scottish Premiership match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder. PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xAndrewxMilliganx 57357926

How Did The Fixture Between Celtic And Rangers Play Out?

Before going into the match itself, once again I want to clarify that I don’t support either team, but that I have been an avid follower of the Scottish top flight for a number of years now. I have no tendencies in either direction, no affection for either manager, and no favourite players in the teams either. The only thing that I do have, is a clear understanding of how bad Celtic have played this season, and how good Rangers have been as well. Going into the fixture, as much as I wanted another amazing underdog story, I was convinced that Rangers would be able to get the win.

The opening minutes of the game brought joy to my heart, as things kicked off in the completely opposite direction to what I was expecting. The likes of Odsonne Edouard and David Turnbull were able to impact the game, but the difference in standards in some key areas soon began to show. Rangers were forced to be happy without the ball, and Celtic deserve a lot of credit for doing that to Steven Gerrard’s team. At one point in the tie, Rangers’ pass completion rate was the worst they had posted all season, but unfortunately for Lennon, Celtic were unable to take advantage of the situation.

There were a couple of excellent strikes that Celtic produced, but Allan McGregor was constantly up to the task. This highlighted yet another issue that pushed Celtic further towards mediocrity – not having a properly dependable goalkeeper. Vasilis Barkas was brought into the team by Lennon for this match, and while he didn’t have all that much to do, the one instance where he should’ve come and taken charge, he failed to do that. McGregor, on the other hand, produced save after save, and topped it all off with an exceptional diving stop to deny Leigh Griffiths what would’ve been a vital goal.

Celtic were in the ascendancy for a majority of the fixture, but their apparent inability to put the ball into the back of the net cost them dearly. The whole world knows that the fixture ended 1-0, but the circumstance that led to that situation is one that could’ve been avoided entirely. It was one moment of brilliant from Rangers that actually caused Celtic’s downfall, and although most will argue that Nir Bitton shouldn’t have made that challenge, I say he didn’t have an option. To ask Bitton not to bring his man down there, would’ve been like asking Bruno Fernandes not to go down and roll around faking pain when he was brought down in the box with Manchester United a goal down in stoppage time.

How Did The Fixture Between Celtic And Rangers Play Out - Rangers celebrate
Rangers v Celtic – Scottish Premiership – Ibrox Stadium Rangers Joe Aribo celebrates his side s first goal of the game with his team-mates which was an own goal scored by Celtics Callum McGregor during the Scottish Premiership match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder. PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xAndrewxMilliganx 57357628

Yes, it could’ve been avoided, but it was bound to happen. For well over an hour they held on, but at the end of the day, all it took Rangers was one moment of fortune to completely turn the game around. That’s the difference between a good team and a great one. Their willingness to work hard for each other was apparent to see, but Rangers just had form and momentum in their favour. It wasn’t until later that Mohamed Elyounoussi was brought on by Lennon. The Southampton loanee immediately created chances, which prompted me to think what the outcome could’ve been if the Norwegian had started the game, especially considering the manner in which Celtic started the game.

The only goal of the game came in rather comedic fashion, as few would’ve expected two people, both named McGregor, to be both the hero and the villain of the entire match. While Allan McGregor was a perpetual rock at the back for Steven Gerrard’s side, Callum McGregor’s stroke of misfortune piled on the heartache for Neil Lennon. The difference in between the two sides is now 19 points, and although Celtic have three games in hand, it would take a truly miraculous turnaround from them for anything positive to come from league.

Why Rangers Have Stepped Ahead Of Celtic

Rangers have produced some exceptional football this season, with thorough performances being put in at any stadiums they’ve travelled to. Celtic though, seem to take the smaller games lightly, and that’s what has put them in such a delicate situation. Had Celtic performed the way they did against Rangers for the entirety of the season, not only would they be up there with the Gers, but they would also still be in the Europa League. The gulf between the two sides had been decreasing over the last few years, and now, midway through the 20/21 Premiership campaign, it could be argued that Rangers have now finally pulled ahead.

Celtic fans will still be hoping for some magic to go in their favour, but that would require a massive drop off the pace from Steven Gerrard’s side, and looking how they’ve been going over recent weeks, that would be a tall order. Personally, the Premiership title race has been over for months now, and unless Gerrard loses the plot completely and starts playing Alfredo Morelos in goal, the Old Firm derby was a sign of things to come.

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