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1/1 and 1/1
1/1 and 1/1
During the season, EVERY team that crowns itself champion has games in which it does not put in its best results, but still manages to come out on top through sheer determination or a lucky stroke.
One of those games at Ibrox yesterday was Rangers’ narrow victory over Celtic, which gave them no less than a 19-point lead at the top of the Premier League table and greatly improved their chances of winning their first Scottish title since 2011.
In the first half, Steven Gerrard’s side were utterly outclassed and had their goalkeeper, Allan McGregor, to thank for a series of brilliant saves to avoid an equalizer.
In the second half, after the opposition had been reduced to ten men by the sending off of Nir Bitton, Callum McGregor’s own goal from a James Tavernier corner gave them the lead they hardly deserved. During the 90 minutes, they did not manage one single shot on target.
But only the result counted yesterday for Rangers, not the quality of the results, and they delivered the desired outcome.
Afterwards, nobody, neither Gerrard nor Lennon, was able to say that the league was over. But for the league leaders to squander the championship now, it would take a major failure, even though the nearest chasers only have three games in hand. It’s looking more and more like their year will eventually be 2021.
When Callum McGregor charged into the game past Tavernier and fed Odsonne Edouard in front of him, Celtic got a glimpse of what was to come as early as the third minute. Fortunately, Allan McGregor was able to refuse the striker because of the Rangers captain.
Lennon was incensed when Alfredo Morelos bumped Jeremie Frimpong on the touchline moments later. A comment from the opposing dressing room irritated him and he marched over to confront the responsible man.
Gerrard interfered and shot his counterpart away, and in order to ease the situation, fourth official Nick Walsh spent some time chatting with Lennon on the edge of the technical area. It was clear that there was a lot at stake and there were tensions running high.
But the Northern Irishman was largely pleased with what he saw in the first 45 minutes: his team dominated the game, created some good scoring opportunities and, with their relentless pressing, prevented the hosts from getting into the game in any shape or form.
Only Allan McGregor avoided conceding a goal. In the 22nd minute, the veteran Rangers goalkeeper made the most significant save of his long career to keep out a Leigh Griffiths shot. He steered the attempt for a corner to the right post and out.
Celtic left-back Diego Laxalt made a brilliant save three minutes before the half-time break to deny Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos after Kemar Roofe sent his teammate into the goal with a flick from Allan McGregor’s cross. Yet the home side was not in danger at all.
Lennon continued to rely on Vasilis Barkas, the Greek goalkeeper who has struggled to find shape in the summer since his £ 5 million move from AEK Athens to Scotland, in goal, and Nir Bitton, whose preferred midfield position is. However, neither man has been checked.
However, whatever had been said in the home locker room had the desired effect. Ianis Hagi was substituted for Roofe at the beginning of the second half, who had picked up a quad injury, and Rangers got off to a much better start.
But in the 62nd minute, after Tavernier served Morelos on the right, the game turned to a refereeing decision. In front of Bitton, the striker got to the ball and was unwisely brought down by the goalkeeper. Immediately, the referee searched for the Red Card.
Is the crime punishable by a send-off? Was it a simple goal scoring chance? Morelos had been out a while and was running at an angle to the goal.
Lennon immediately substituted Griffiths for Shane Duffy and David Turnbull for Mohamed Elyounoussi. Celtic managed to put their rivals under pressure. But all too often, when they reached the final third, their players chose the wrong choice or misplayed a pass.
When Borna Barisic deflected a free kick through the defensive wall in the 70th minute, Rangers got a corner. Tavernier put a cross into the Celtic penalty area that Aribo could only lightly touch.
The ball bounced off the shoulder of Callum McGregor, who couldn’t get out of the way, and trundled over Barkas and into his own net. Shouts of jubilation from the Rangers players, coaching staff and officials stale