Regardless of what you think about those across the city, this game is still the most anticipated in the calendar of Scottish football. The lack of fans in stadiums will not stop the excitement and chatter amongst the fans of either side. There has been much talk from the blue half of Glasgow and their lackies in the Main Stream Media about what they are going to do to us today, with the backdrop of a spate of call offs to our players due to Covid.
Can the champions silence their noisy neighbours? Can Neil Lennon come up with a team and formation to combat their midfield and give a cutting edge to the attacks we build? There were a few questions as to who he would pick considering the infections effecting Edouard, Christie, Bitton and El Hamed. Would Edouard come into the picture after isolating for 10 days? Would Laxalt come into the equation? Would Griffiths start after an exhilarating cameo appearance in our last late victory?
There were a few shocks in the line up, that is for sure.
Edouard was not to be seen in the squad and with the omission of Jullien due to injury saw a start for young Stephen Welsh at centre half. Diego Laxalt comes into the starting 11 in place of Taylor, and Klimala starts up front with Elyounoussi in support.
A strong bench sees Griffiths, Rogic, Turnbull and Ajeti - all of whom can come in and punish a tired defence as the game goes on.
It took a little to get going in the early stages but 6 minutes in things broke into life. McGregor did brilliantly on the left to run into the box and pass to Elyounoussi but it was defended well by helander who cleared. On the break the ball fell to Morelos who passed through the penalty area to barisic at the back post but his shot from a tight angle was poor.
Rangers did take the lead with a Goldson header right in front of goal. Poor defending allowed the big defender to glance in a free kick which swung invitingly past the backline leaving Barkas with no chance from the glancing nod.
Tavernier looked to add a second with an ambitious volley from the right hand corner of the Celtic box, but it went well wide. Kent had an effort as he was released on the left by Goldson. He pushed into the box but the weak effort was easily taken by Barkas in goal.
Mo Elyounoussi latched on to a long ball from Duffy which goldson got caught under but his attempt at a lob was unfortunately well over. Ntcham also managed a snap shot from around 18 yards but it was blocked and looped harmlessly away.
Good play from Elyounoussi who was fouled twice did well to release Celtic down the left. Frimpong's ball into Moi saw him turn well and get a ball in but it didn't quite fall for a Celtic player and McGregors shot was blocked away.
Celtic got caught on the right with a pass to Welsh who forwarded on to Frimpong. The little wing back got caught in possession and Rangers broke in a good area. Kent moved in on goal but Brown cleverly moved into his path and pushed the ball wide for a corner when a goal could have been the result.
Morelos was up to his usual dirty tricks with an unprovoked slap at the ear of Brown and then a blatant barge into a leaping Duffy, when he had no chance of competing for the ball. Of course none of these incidents met with a card of any variety from a referee who seems to think that Morelos is invisible when attacking Celtic players.
Half time Celtic 0 Newco Rangers 1A nice break through the niddle by mcGregor saw him release Laxalt on the left. The ball broke out wide to Frimpong and in by Ntcham to Moi but his turn never gave hime the space to finish.
Kent had a chance that was brilliantly stopped by a late Ajer challenge but the second was coming. Rangers played on the right with nice interpassing between Kamara and Arfield and the ball across broke to Goldson. His shot was blocked by Duffy but it broke to him once again to toe poke it into Barkas's net to double their advantage.
Ajeti came into the fold to hopefully give Celtic a much needed goal threat on 55 minutes at the expense of Mo Elyounouusi. Arfield cynically stopped Klimala for the first booking of the game at the hour mark. Brown upended Kent and also found himself in the referees book just as Barker was replaced by Ryan Jack.
Tom Rogic and Leigh Griffiths made themselves ready but not before Ajer mad a massive block to stop Ryan Kent extending the lead. Barisic broke on the left and played a clever ball looped backwards to Kent in space but Ajer blocked the volley at such a vital moment if Celtic were to recover. Ntcham and Klimala made way for the two derby veterans.
As Rangers had the two goal advantage they did what all teams in Scotland do and shut up shop. we were struggling until Ajer stepped through the midfield and threaded a pass into Griffiths. McGregor in the Rangers goal spread himself well and it put the little striker too wide to get a shot off and his through ball was easily taken by the goalie.
Turnbull and Taylor came on for Welsh and the impressive Laxalt. Morelos had another dirty tackle on Duffy which saw him get a well deserved booking but the reaction of the Irishman saw him see yellow too. Tavernier had a shot from a free kick with five minutes to go but Barkas tipped it over the bar.
Aribo came on to replace Arfield with a minute or two to spare. Taylor crossed well in time added on after a ball from Turnbull but Godson got a vital touch to stop it reaching the heads of three lurking Celtic attackers.
The game ended 2 goals to nil for the visitors who extend their lead at the top of the league to four points, although the champions have a game in hand which they really now need to win.
This was a poor perfomance from us. We were poor from set piece defending which ultimately led to our demise. You look across the park and say that we never played terribly in open play. None of their star players were allowed to dominate, however we failed miserably to create ANY chances at all, which is really not acceptable.
For me Laxalt looked like a really good addition but the team in general are still lacking in creativity. Thankfully no real gap has emerged at the top, but it would be petulant to say that there is a gulf in class between the teams now. We had a huge gulf in class in recent years, but it is now narrower, and this Rangers team is a genuine threat for the title. We need to stay consistent against the lesser teams and somehow find something that seems to be missing in the Glasgow Derbies.
I will not make excuses about players missing. In this strangest of seasons, losing players to Covid will be inevitable. Would Edouard or Christie have made a difference - possibly, but let's not get analyse it too much. we need to be better, we need to be stronger, we need to be more creative.
Today was not our day. Let's make sure going forward that this year, is our year.