Just another typical Old Firm match. Three Red Cards, Ten Yellow Cards, touch-line bust-ups and the referee being hounded by the Rangers players.
The blame for last night’s festivities have already led to some finger-pointing from both sides, with the national media claiming that the game was a national disgrace.
Mark Wilson scored the only goal a game, in which the football played second fiddle to the anger that was on show for all to see last night. This was not a Cup Final, but the Celtic fans celebrated as if it was as their side dominated another Old Firm match.
The result ended Walter Smith’s chance of a domestic treble in his final season as Rangers manager. Neil Lennon’s side will now face Inverness Caley Thistle in the next round.
Before the game kicked off Rangers lost Nikica Jelavic [hamstring]and Kyle Lafferty [tonsillitis]. Rangers were pegged back in their own half early on, but managed to create a chance when Diouf latched onto Whittaker’s pass and rounded keeper Lukasz Zaluska, who had come off his line somewhat rashly. However Diouf’s cross ball was cleared by Daniel Majstorovic.
Ki then tried his luck from distance with a left footed strike, however his shot went over the bar.
Referee Calum Murray eventually had to get involved in the game after the half hour mark, when Whittaker was booked for persistent fouling ending with a trip on Ki. And soon after Whittaker was shown his second yellow card and sent off when he lunged at Izaguirre, bringing down the Honduran.
The incident kicked off an angry confrontation on the touchline between El Hadji Diouf and the Celtic bench, which led to the Rangers bench getting involved. Diouf was shown a yellow card for his part in the incident, while Rangers assistant Ally McCoist and Celtic manager Neil Lennon given a warning by referee Murray.
With play resuming, Maurice Edu gifted Celtic’s Georgios Samaras with a chance to break the deadlock but keeper Allan McGregor blocked the Greek’s shot, rebounding off the Celtic striker and out of play, and soon after Commons struck a hot over the bar from the edge of the box as Celtic dominated.
Celtic skipper Scott Brown and Majstorovic both received yellow cards, while Rangers’ John Fleck also given a yellow card as the First Half drew to a close, with Celtic having one last chance on goal as South Korean Ki fired a free kick just over the Rangers crossbar.
As the players made their way down the tunnel, several Rangers players including El Hadji Diouf made a beeline for Scott Brown, trying to provoke the Celtic skipper into a reaction that he almost certainly be shown a second yellow card for. However it was a clash between Johan Mjallby and Kyle Bartley that was caught on camera, while Brown made his way to the home dressing room.
With the teams coming out for the second half, the fans were counting the players coming out for the second half and despite the police presence and match officials in the tunnel, Celtic came out with all their players and Rangers saw their ten remaining come out, with Kyle Hutton replacing John Fleck.
Minutes into the Second Half and Celtic took the lead. Emilio Izaguirre’s cross wasn’t dealt with by the Rangers defence and the ball found its way to Mark Wilson at the back post. The full back’s first shot was blocked on the line by Papac however the rebound fell back to Wilson and his second chance bounced over McGregor and beat Bougherra on the line, sending the Celtic fans into another rendition of the Depeche Mode song, ‘Just can’t get enough.’
However amongst all the celebrations, Rangers full back Sasa Papac lay motionless on the goal line – the result of Wilson’s first shot. Several minutes past before Papac was stretchered off the field, replaced by youngster Gregg Wylde. And after a previous head injury earlier on in the season, we hope that Papac recovers fully.
Rangers then nearly got back into the game against the run of play when Charlie Mulgrew header headed towards his own goal, which left Zaluska scrambling back to get hold of the ball before it crossed the line. And despite illegal pressure from Diouf, trying to push the keeper into the goal and the Rangers fans cheering as if the ball crossed the line, no goal was given and Celtic launched another attack.
As Celtic bore down on the Rangers goal once more, Madjid Bougherra cynically trampled on Gary Hooper’s ankle which could have resulted in the player being seriously injury. However despite several Celtic players intimating to make a substitution, Hooper received some treatment but returned to the action soon after. The Algerian rightly received a yellow card, as Rangers’ game plan look as if they were targeting players rather than playing football -a plan they had done a few months earlier in a game against Kilmarnock when five of their players systematically targeted Killie playmaker Alexei Eremenko.
Ki had another strike at goal, but it swerved wide of McGregor’s post, and Celtic had their best chance to double their lead when Samaras latched onto a superb through ball from Scott Brown, the Greek hit it first time beating McGregor but it hit the base of the post and was cleared by the Rangers defence.
Celtic had two more chances to score, both through Samaras however his first was saved comfortably by McGregor and the second was cleared off the line by Wylde.
Kyle Bartley moved from his defensive position to a forward role alongside Diouf, and soon after the defender was fouled giving Rangers the chance to have their first real chance on goal. But Diouf’s free kick was tame and straight at Zaluska in the Celtic goal. It was the only time that Zaluska really had anything to do in the game.
With five minutes of injury time, Rangers pressed forward for an equaliser that would send the tie into extra time, but they were down to nine men when Bougherra went right through Kris Commons on the touch-line and despite furious scenes with the Rangers players surrounding referee Calum Murray, and the Algerian manhandling the referee for the second time, the defender received his second yellow card and a subsequent red card.
The final minutes flew by, and as the Rangers fans made their way out of the ground as quickly as possible, Calum Murray brought the war of attrition to an end. But the controversy didn’t end with the final whistle.
After the Final Whistle, several Rangers players sought out Callum Murray on the pitch to berate him for sending off Whittaker and Bougherra. El Hadji Diouf was the most vocal in his protests, as he had been all game. And as he continued to berate the referee, he was led away by a team-mate but Callum Murray whipped out another yellow card followed by a red to send off Diouf for dissent. The player had to be led off the park by members of the Rangers coaching staff, as the Celtic fans mocked the on loan Blackburn player – with chants of ‘Who are Ya!’
Rangers assistant Ally McCoist and Celtic manager Neil Lennon clashed on the touch-line after shaking hands, with words being exchanged between the two.
The Chairman of the Scottish Police Federation Les Gray branded last night’s events as disgraceful. However we shall be tackling Gray’s comments surrounding the Old Firm and his calls for it to be banned later.
According to a Strathclyde Police spokesperson, 34 people were arrested inside the stadium for a variety of sectarian, racial and breach of the peace offences.
Celtic: Zaluska; Izaguirre, Majstorovic, Wilson, Mulgrew; Brown, Ki Sung-Yeung, Baram Kayal, Commons; Samaras, Hooper.
Subs not Used: Cervi, Juarez, Rogne, Stokes, Forrest.
Rangers: McGregor; Weir, Papac (Wylde 51), Foster, Bougherra; Edu, Davis, Whittaker, Bartley, Fleck (Hutton 46); Diouf.
Subs not Used: Alexander, Healy, Kerkar.
Possession: Celtic [61%] Rangers [39%]
Attempts on target: Celtic  Rangers 
Attempts off target: Celtic  Rangers 
Corners: Celtic  Rangers 
Fouls: Celtic  Rangers