Rangers made a decent start to the match, with the long ball game looking to be the preferred option, as Lee McCulloch was starting up front on his own, with Little and Aluko either side of him.
It was big Jig who did get the first half-chance of the match, as a long ball from Wallace was sent Little’s way. The Ulsterman offered McCulloch a chested lay off, but McCulloch could only slice the ball over.
Almost immediately Celtic were presented their first opportunity, as Izaguirre left Kyle Barltey for dead, but no Celtic men could get on the end of the Honduran’s dangerous cross across the six-yard box.
Personally, I was a bit surprised to see Rangers line up 4-5-1, especially after Wallace and Whittaker had run amock as wingbacks, as part of the 5-3-2 system McCoist implemented the last time the sides met.
Andrew Little was the next man to get a chance on goal, and he really should have done better. Rhys McCabe picked the ball up on halfway, in fifty-fifty challenge with Scott Brown. The young Scot skipped past another and played in the advancing Little. Little could only lightly sting the palms of Fraser Foster, as his shot was easily dealt with.
Immediately from that chance, Celtic raced up the other end of the park to win a corner from a Commons cross, and give themselves an early lead.
The defending fOR that corner was lazy, from Little in particular. He neither picked up the incoming Mulgrew, or Brown on the edge of the box. However, the more senior members of the team, should have directed Little to mark at least one of the two.
Commons’ corner was floated deep away from the crowd of players in the box, and headed in to the ground by the free and advancing Mulgrew. McGregor was helpless to prevent the ball from hitting the back of the net.
Little sheepishly made his way to the halfway line, ready for the kick off, and I think knew he held the most blame for allowing Mulgrew all the time in the world to fire Celtic in to the lead.
Despite being 1-0 down so soon, Rangers were still looking to find a way back in to the game, but the long ball tactic wasn’t working and gifting possession to Celtic all too often and all too easy.
Just around the half hour mark, Rangers switched to a more conventional 4-4-2, with Aluko looking to support McCulloch up front, with Little left and Whittaker right.
Minutes later, Celtic again exposed more lazy defending, to make it 2-0.
Hooper was played in down the right, over the top of Wallace, which dragged the two centre backs out of position. Hooper cut back inside, to see Commons racing through the middle, with McCabe trying to keep up. As the ball was played, Bartley had made his move infield, but his attempt to cut out the pass was naive to say the least. He sold himself, allowing Commons to go one-on-one with McGregor.
As much as it pains me to say it, the finish was exquisite and again McGregor was helpless to prevent the ball hitting the back of the net.
Celtic really took control of matters now both on the pitch and off it, and Rangers were clinging on for dear life, on the build up to half time.
The central pairing of Edu and McCabe, were outnumbered by Brown, Ledley and Wanyama. For the first time since he made the break into the first team, McCabe looked like a youth player. Edu was no real help to him either, as he couldn’t seem to make any interceptions or close down any Celtic player.
That was how the score remained to half time, as Rangers went in to try and compose themselves and look for a way back in to the game.
The Rangers team, didn’t exactly charge out of the tunnel, like a team on a mission to put up a fight and get their way back in to this match.
The second half started as the first half had ended for Rangers, passes forward were not making their targets, either on the ground or in the air.
Celtic almost made it 3-0 with a thundering volley from Joe Ledley. Allan McGregor was a match for this one, with a stunning acrobatic save. McGregor again stretched to the rescue from the resulting corner.
Those efforts were however, in vain.
As danger was averted, Celtic again picked up possession inside the Rangers half. With the Rangers defence again at sixes and sevens, Samaras played in Hooper, who smashed the ball in to the top corner, to end the game before the hour mark.
I really did feel for Rhys McCabe at this stage. Playing next to Edu in this game, was similar to playing on your own against three of four others. It was he who had been robbed off possession, in the build up to that goal.
It was to be young McCabe’s final involvement, as he made way for the fit again Jamie Ness.
At least there was a positive to be taken for the Rangers support, by seeing Jamie Ness back in a royal blue jersey.
Luckily for Rangers, Celtic did take their foot off the gas for the remainder of the game, no doubt knowing the game was won.
So you did see Rangers do a little better going forward, but still, passes were wayward and rushed.
It was a bad day at the office all round for Rangers. They were as poor as Celtic were good, a mirror image of the last time the two sides met. The scoreline could have been far worse.
I must give credit to the Rangers support, after enduring a painful seventy minutes of football, and torrid, yet fully expected, humiliation from the rival support, they stayed on to the end and cheered on their boys, as loud as they could.
Post-match, Ally McCoist could not fault his players, and who can disagree? Imagine being in the same situation at your place of work? Would your mind be fully focussed on the task in hand? Certainly not.
It has been a torrid ten weeks for the teddy bears. A win in this fixture would have been some temporary light relief from current affairs and don’t get me wrong, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it.
The loss, although embarrassing at the time, is not one you or I will be talking about in a week or two.
Written by James Donaldson