Scottish Premier League
Rangers 3-2 Celtic



SEEING RED: Referee Calum Murray sends off Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama - one of three players dismissed at Ibrox



By Adam Higgins
Chief Scotland Correspondent from Ibrox

NINE-MAN Celtic's title party celebrations were put on hold for at least another week as rivals Rangers put their own recent woes behind them to win an enthralling Old Firm derby.

The runaway Scottish Premier League leaders were down and out in the third meeting between the two sides this season, conceding an 11th minute opener to Sone Aluko before seeing full-back Cha-Du-Ri dismissed for bringing down Lee Wallace when clean through on goal. 

Manager Neil Lennon was sent to the stands at half-time while Victor Wanyama also saw red for a two-footed tackle on an ill-disciplined afternoon for the Hoops. 

Substitute Andrew Little doubled Rangers' lead which Wallace added to minutes later but the visitors managed to make the scoreline more respectable with a late penalty from Scott Brown - given for a foul by Carlos Bocanegra on Georgios Samaras inside the penalty area which saw the defender sent off - and a Thomas Rogne header from Charlie Mulgrew's free-kick.

It was a loss that ended Celtic's 21-game unbeaten run in the league and condemned them to back-to-back defeats after the shock League Cup final loss to Kilmarnock

Ally McCoist was boosted by the return of some of his big-hitters and had a completely new back-four to the one which started the dismal 2-1 defeat at Dundee United a week ago. 

Steven Whittaker made his first appearance since Christmas Eve after injury, Doran Goian and Carlos Bocanegra returned after suspension in central defence and Sasa Papac was also back after a couple of weeks missing with a back complaint. 

Wallace pushed forward to the left side of midfield while Rangers also gave an Old Firm initiation to young midfielder Rhys McCabe with Sone Aluko coming into the starting line-up as well to support the lone frontman - midfielder Lee McCulloch.

Hoops boss Lennon, who said in the build-up that this match was no different to any other Old Firm match, was without James Forrest while Gary Hooper, who hadn't trained all week, was deemed fit enough only for bench duty. 

There were three changes to the side with Cha Du-Ri making his first start in the Glasgow derby while fellow countryman Ki Sung-Yeung was drafted into midfield. Georgios Samaras started out on the left hand side with Anthony Stokes spearheading the attack.

The scene had been set for Celtic as they looked to recover from last week's 1-0 loss to Killie in the Scottish Communities League Cup final by claiming their 43rd league title.

But it was a great start for Rangers as Aluko, who set up the own goal from John Rankin in the defeat at Tannadice last Sunday from the bench, was played in by McCulloch and the former Aberdeen man was denied by a great block from Cha after controlling the ball beautifully.


The three red cards in the game took the total of red cards in the last 21 Old Firm derbies to 19. 

The hosts were starting with a flat back four with Stokes, making only a second Old Firm start, alone in the attack having normally employed three centre-backs in recent matches. 

A zipped McCabe effort missed the target for Rangers, who had lost three of their previous four league games, in a lively start in the Glasgow sunshine amid an electric atmosphere inside Ibrox.

Both sets of players were wearing black armbands as a mark of respect for Kilmarnock midfielder Liam Kelly's father, who died in hospital after suffering a heart attack at Hampden Park last weekend.

Celtic fans were already in party mood inside the ground holding placards and banners but they were behind after 11 minutes when a lovely piece of skill from Aluko came off, nutmegging Rogne before taking it away from Cha onto his right side inside the box.

He then finished tidily for his first Old Firm derby goal and sixth of the season to give his club something to smile about as the stadium continued to boom.

The Rangers players were demonstrating early determination to ruin their opponents' title celebrations - Jock Stein was the last Celtic manager to seal the title at Ibrox back in 1967 - and the upbeat start from Rangers looked to make that particular extend even more.

Although, the Hoops made a response with Samaras working McGregor from a tight angle after a lungbusting run before Stokes's weak follow-up was tipped over by the Rangers goalkeeper.

Stokes forced a super save from the current Scotland number one onto the post shortly after Bocanegra backed away from the Irish striker.

The first controversial moment came on 26 minutes when Aluko was again involved in spreading a pass to Lee Wallace, who looked to escape away and was touched by Cha Du-Ri outside the penalty area.

The slighest contact denied a goalscoring opportunity and gave referee Calum Murray, in charge of his fourth Old Firm meeting, little choice but to show the Korean international a red card.

Stokes was then sacrificed minutes later for left-back Emilio Izaguirre to come on. 

Rangers - much the better side - deserved their lead and looked in control even more after the red card.

The champions elect, however, were having a bad day with Scott Brown among others playing the occasion instead - the Hoops skipper got involved in an altercation with Aluko after being caught accidentally by the Gers winger.

At half-time, Celtic boss Lennon was ordered away from the dugout for the second period after confronting fourth official Iain Brines in the tunnel during the interval as the former Hoops player, yet to win the SPL title as manager, watched the proceedings from the media room at Ibrox.


Only two sides who have scored the first goal in the last 72 Old Firm derbies have gone on to lose.  

Celtic's ill-discipline haunted them again just 12 minutes after the restart when Wanyama was sent off for a two-footed tackle directly under the nose of the referee.

The Nigerian midfielder needlessly lunged into Steven Whittaker, leading with his studs and leaving Celtic to play over half an hour with nine men and making their task even more difficult.

Aluko came close with the resulting free-kick from 25 yards before Kyle Lafferty was introduced for his appearance of this calendar year after injury on the hour in place of Rhys McCabe.

Rangers, who had won the previous three SPL titles, remained in the driving seat with a two-man advantage and sapping the energy of the weary Celtic players by passing the ball around with ease.

Lafferty stung the hands of an agile Fraser Forster when lacking in support while Whittaker and McCulloch drew a double stop from the on-loan Newcastle stopper.

Eventually, their lead was increased with the all-important second goal from Little - who had just come on as a substitute to make a first Old Firm appearance since 2005.

Lafferty flicked on a Whittaker cross with Wallace standing at the back post. He was denied by the keeper but Little was on hand to stick it away.

And the visitors' wretched day got worst when Adam Matthews was caught in possession by Wallace, who carried on running to reach a neat pass from Davis and slot home. This was his final contribution to the game, leaving a delighted McCoist going bonkers on the touchline.

Referee Murray - who showed three red cards when he was last in charge of this fixture 12 months ago in a Scottish Cup quarter-final at Parkhead - repeated that feat again with Bocanegra given his marching orders for sprawling Samaras from behind to give away a penalty with two minutes left.

Five of Celtic's previous six SPL spotkicks had been missed but skipper Brown was never going to follow suit, getting enough pace on it to beat McGregor down to his right to ruin his clean sheet.

In a pulsating derby which had just about everything, the final two minutes were made interesting when Rogne headed in a Commons free-kick in stoppage time - getting away from Salim Kerkar to plant a firm header in.

But it was too little too late as Celtic were left wondering and their title bid keeps on going as the situation remains the same as the start of the weekend with Motherwell also losing to Kilmarnock.

They will need to look to Rangers first to do them a favour when they take on Stuart McCall's third-placed team next Saturday lunchtime while the Hoops will have the chance to claim the title on home soil when they face St Johnstone the following day.


Sunday 25th March 2012

Scottish Premier League

Ibrox (West Glasgow, Scotland)


Rangers 3-2 Celtic                                            KO 1pm               Live on Sky Sports 2/HD2              (HT 1-0)

Aluko 11         Brown 89 (pen)
Little 72         Rogne 90+2
Wallace 77

  1 McGregor - 7.5/10, 16 Whittaker - 7.5/10, 2 Goian - 8/10, 18 Bocanegra - 6.5/10, 5 Papac - 7/10, 41 McCabe - 6.5/10 (Lafferty 60 - 2.5/10), 8 Davis (C) - 7.5/10, 7 Edu - 7/10, 12 Wallace - 8/10 (Kerkar 78 - 1.5/10), 19 Aluko - 9/10 (Little 72 - 2.5/10), 6 McCulloch - 7.5/10.

Subs not used:  25 Alexander (GK), 32 Perry, 21 Bedoya, 40 Andrew Mitchell 

Booked:     Kerkar (80)

Sent-off:   Bocanegra (87)


Celtic:  1 Forster - 8/10, 11 Cha Du-Ri - 2/10, 25 Rogne - 7.5/10, 21 Mulgrew - 7.5/10, 2 Matthews - 6/10, 8 Brown (C) - 6.5/10, 16 Ledley - 6.5/10 (Hooper 90+3 - 0.5/10), 18 Ki Sung-Yeung - 6/10 (Commons 70 - 2.5/10), 67 Wanyama - 5.5/10, 9 Samaras - 7.5/10, 10 Stokes - 2.5/10 (Izaguirre 32 - 6/10).

Subs not used:  24 Zaluska (GK), 6 K Wilson, 46 McGeouch, 17 Brozek

Booked:     None

Sent-off:   Cha Du-Ri (26), Wanyama (57)


My Man of the Match:      Sone Aluko (Rangers) - Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:     Cha Du-Ri (Celtic) - Rating 2/10



Referee: Calum Murray (Scotland) - 9/10
Attendance: 50,191



Match Facts

Possession: Rangers - 52%            Celtic - 48%

Shots: Rangers - 17             Celtic - 7

Shots on target: Rangers - 11            Celtic - 3

Shots off target: Rangers - 6             Celtic - 4

Corners: Rangers - 6               Celtic - 4

Fouls: Rangers - 19              Celtic - 14

Offside: Rangers - 0               Celtic - 2

Assists: Rangers - Davis (2), Wallace           Celtic - Commons



Rangers manager Ally McCoist

"I was absolutely delighted for 87 minutes- I felt we just had a crazy last few minutes and that was it. There certainly was a release in tension for us all involved with the club today because we have had some troubled times of late and we wanted to win the game to thank our fans for backing us and doing their bit. Through thick and thin, they have been absolutely fantastic. I thought it was an incredible atmosphere. The Rangers and Celtic games sometimes get a bit of stick and not enough credit, but I've been to football games throughout the world and that atmosphere today takes some beating. It has given everybody within the club a real, real boost. But, as I've said all along, the most important thing is the future of the football club long-term. Hopefully, in the next two or three weeks, we can get that established and get back on the track and going in the right direction. I thought we dominated the game. I thought we were by far the better team and I don't think the scoreline reflects the true amount of possession and chances we had. I am not complaining as I have always said the result is by far the more important thing."

Listen to the thoughts of Gers boss Ally McCoist after the Old Firm victory



Celtic manager Neil Lennon

"I am naturally disappointed that we have lost the game especially when we could have won the title today. I am more disappointed with the first red card for Cha (Du-Ri). I don't think that Lee Wallace has a scoring opportunity there and we had cover. It did take something out of us. As far as my dismissal is concerned, I am entitled, as a manager, to speak to a referee about decisions he has made that I am not happy with. Who are they accountable to? Are they allowed to waltz through games criticism-free? I had, for me, a quiet word in the tunnel with the referee and then he sends me to the stands which is depriving me from doing my job in my opinion. The second red I have no complaints about. It is a two-footed tackle and I cannot legislate for it. We left our work to the final minutes when it was too late. We will go again next week, we all know we are going to win the title and we hope to get it wrapped up next week against St Johnstone."

Listen to the full thoughts of Hoops boss Neil Lennon after the derby defeat


Make a Free Website with Yola.