Rangers 3 Celtic 2: Lessons from an action-packed Old Firm derby

What did we learn from Rangers' pride-restoring 3-2 victory over Celtic in the Old Firm derby at Ibrox on Sunday?

By Daragh Small
SPL, 25 March 2012, Ibrox
team1
Rangers
3 - 2
team2
Celtic

Rangers show fighting spirit

Rangers were never going to make it easy for Celtic to win their sixth Scottish Premier League title on Sunday. Ally McCoist’s side produced a determined performance to defeat their bitter rivals 3-2 to ensure the blue side of Glasgow went home happy, with goals from Sone Aluko, Andy Little and Lee Wallace sealing victory. Celtic netted two late strikes courtesy of Scott Brown and Thomas Rogne but the scoreline was not an accurate reflection of Rangers’ dominance. McCoist’s side will face Motherwell next weekend as they look to secure second spot, even though issues beyond their control may see their licence being revoked for next season. Meanwhile, if Celtic beat St. Johnstone at Celtic Park next Saturday they can claim their first SPL crown in three seasons.

McCoist outfoxes Lennon

Ally McCoist had the last laugh as his Rangers side prevented Celtic winning the title at Ibrox for the first time since 1967. Neil Lennon’s woes were compounded when he was sent to the stands at half-time after an altercation with referee Calum Murray. Lennon wasn’t the only Celtic man be dismissed as Murray brandished two further red cards for Cha Du-Ri and Victor Wanyama. Rangers won the game in the opening half and McCoist’s decision to position Rhys McCabe in front of the back four proved a master-stroke as he controlled affairs on his Old Firm debut, while Aluko and Lee McCulloch also formed a devastating attacking partnership. This was in contrast to Lennon’s questionable decision to play one upfront with Georgios Samaras used in a wide position which ultimately backfired.

Murray plays a key role

Once again, a referee was a central figure in an Old Firm derby – however neither side can feel aggrieved as Murray had a near flawless game. Three red cards and a manager sent to the stands may suggest a card-happy referee but Murray can be justified in all his decisions. The tense atmosphere and off-field stories surrounding the game meant that this one threatened to boil over even before a ball was kicked. In the 28th minute, Aluko played in Wallace but he was taken down just outside the box by Cha who, as the last man, correctly earned a straight red. The next dismissal was even more straightforward as Celtic’s Wanyama lunged into a tackle with both feet off the ground. Then, in the 87th minute as Celtic pushed for a consolation, Samaras was taken down by Rangers defender Carlos Bocanegra, who was duly given his marching orders.

Signs of solidarity

Celtic and Rangers donned black armbands as the two Glasgow clubs were united in their tribute to Kilmarnock’s Liam Kelly, whose father died after Killie’s cup success over Lennon’s side last weekend. Jack Kelly had been celebrating Kilmarnock’s win before collapsing and tragically dying later in hospital. It led to emotional scenes following the full-time whistle as his son Liam ran up the tunnel to hear the bad news. Sunday’s tribute once again highlights the strong sense of community in football with Barcelona and Real Madrid coming together in their support for Eric Abidal and Fabrice Muamba in La Liga over the past week.

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