A CONTROLLED display from Rangers earned them a routine, deserved victory in the first Old Firm game of the season at Parkhead this afternoon.
The better team from start to finish, goals early in both halves from Connor Goldson ensured the Light Blues have now won back-to-back derby matches in the East End of the city.
From the side which defeated Ross County 2-0 in Gers’ last outing a fortnight ago, in came goalkeeper Allan McGregor, Swedish international Fil Helander, Steven Davis – who broke the Northern Ireland international caps record over the break – and Brandon Barker, who netted the clinching goal in that win over County from the bench.
The visitors opened the game on the front foot, winning an early free-kick which was taken by James Tavernier, but the Celtic defence did well to clear.
At the other end, a fine block from Fil Helander prevented a Callum McGregor ball into the area causing any danger before Gers broke with Borna Barisic receiving an Alfredo Morelos ball which he fired wide.
Then, with just nine minutes played, Rangers grabbed the lead.
Ryan Kent was fouled out on the right, with Tavernier again the man to take the free-kick. His delivery was outstanding, and Shane Duffy played Connor Goldson onside to allow the Gers man the chance to glance a wonderful header beyond Vasilis Barkas and into the back of the net.
It was precisely the start Gerrard would have been looking for, and it almost got better two minutes later, with Tavernier screaming a volley just wide from outside the box.
Kent then danced his way into the area with Barkas holding on to his shot, while Mohamed Elyounousi missed a decent chance for the home side, profiting from a slip to fire well over both a stranded Allan McGregor and the bar.
Rangers continued to control the play as the half progressed, and comfortably saw the game out at 1-0 to half-time.
Into the second half, and again it was Gers on the front foot, and again they who had the first opportunity on 53 minutes.
Super work from Brandon Barker in midfield saw him skip a number of challenges to release Ryan Kent down the right, and only a last-ditch block from Stephen Welsh denied him getting his shot away.
From the resulting Steven Davis corner, the ball reached Scott Arfield at the back post, and he played a one-two with the outstanding Glen Kamara.
Arfield then played another super one-two with Morelos to put Arfield into a crossing position on the right, and he slid a beautiful ball across the face of goal.
Connor Goldson, who had stayed forward from the initial set-piece, was there on the end of it, and while Welsh blocked his initial effort, Goldson managed to prod the rebound home to hand the visitors a deserved cushion.
It was so very nearly three on 65 minutes – Borna Barisic was released down the left and he picked out a top-drawer ball for Kent to volley 15-yards out, but somehow Kris Ajer got a block on the attacker’s goalbound shot.
Celtic’s best chance of the half came on 81 minutes – Leigh Griffiths was released one-on-one with McGregor, but the Rangers goalkeeper did excellently to force him wide before gathering Griffiths’ eventual shot from an acute angle.
Barkas got a touch on a late Tavernier free-kick from 30-yards that might just have been dipping in, but 2-0 is how it finished on a super day for Rangers RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Helander, Goldson, Davis, Kent, Kamara, Morelos (Itten, 85), Barker (Jack, 62), Barisic, Arfield (Aribo, 89)
SUBS NOT USED: McLaughlin, Bassey, Hagi, Defoe, Jones, Balogun.
CELTIC: Barkas, Duffy, Brown, Klimala (Griffiths, 67), Ntcham (Rogic, 67), Elyounousi (Ajeti, 56), Frimpong, Ajer, McGregor, Welsh (Turnbull, 84), Laxalt (Taylor, 84).
SUBS NOT USED: Bain, Soro, Henderson, Ralston. REFEREE: John Beaton
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