This was supposed to be the game that a marker was laid down by Rangers. All too often, their perennial losers turned up at Celtic Park and, ironically despite the cries being no surrender, pretty much surrendered early doors and capitulated to yet another hammering. The game that this new Rangers team, with their dogged defiance and resolute backbone, would ask serious questions of an under-pressure Celtic team, who had just lost our best striker to Lyon amidst a curtain of controversy.
We had been told Celtic were in ‘crisis’ but this was clearly the tamest crisis anyone had seen.
Yet, familiar traits kicked in even before the game, when James Tavernier, now their club captain, resembled a terrified little boy in the tunnel pre-match. If you thought that was cowardly, you should have seen his first half performance!
That said, he wasn’t the only Rangers player who suffered from stage fright, as Celtic, as always in these games, barely had to get out of first gear to secure the win.
Yes, fatigue from Russia no doubt played a part, and that nine man effect was also a factor, but for these games adrenaline kicks in, and if you’re looking for excuses before a Celtic V Rangers match, you’re in the wrong business. Celtic once touched down from an energy sapping performance (Boavista 2003) on the Friday afternoon before facing Rangers early on a Sunday, and that was a strong Rangers team as well, to still muster up a crucial 2-1 win.
Mikael Lustig, who had endured a dreadful start to the season and had been torn apart by everyone he had been up against to date, had a largely comfortable match. Dedryck Boyata, back in the team after the biggest collective flip flop we will ever see, has now had three incredibly easy games back in the team to ease his transition as a regular starter, with Rangers ubdoubtedly being even more of a cruise than Hamilton and Suduva.
The Ibrox outfit had nothing to give, and only briefly threatened in the last five minutes, and you got the impression that even if they did score, Celtic would go up the park and do the same.
So, while we didn’t add to our squad significantly over the summer, and lost a very good centre forward, we’re still the best team in the country and should be at the top of the league just after the international break, we’ve been landed with a very straightforward Europa League group to qualify from and once more our main rivals and their new manager are in for another dismal season with eight in a row pretty much a certainty.
See youse next year I suppose!