RANGERS suffered a painful afternoon at Ibrox Stadium as Pedro Caixinha’s side conceded five goals in the final Old Firm fixture of the Premiership season.
After just 18 minutes the Light Blues were two-nil down to their Glasgow rivals with Scott Sinclair on target from the penalty spot before Leigh Griffiths struck with a powerful finish.
At half-time a goal might have got Rangers back into the game but it wasn’t to be with Callum McGregor netting a third for his side seven minutes after the restart before Dedryck Boyata headed past Wes Foderingham with 66 minutes showing on the Ibrox scoreboards.
After losing six days ago to Brendan Rodgers’ men at the semi-final stage of the William Hill Scottish Cup, this was another tough result to take, with the only bright spot from a one-sided contest coming with 10 minutes remaining when Kenny Miller hit a late consolation before Mikael Lustig completed the scoring with a solo effort.
With both sets of fans creating an incredible atmosphere at kick-off, the match started at a typically ferocious pace with Celtic creating the first chance with just a minute played.
Sinclair’s clever flick released McGregor who could have squared for Griffiths, but his shot was blocked by Hill before the 38-year-old defender did the same to deny Sinclair.
Rangers then pushed forward with intent with Windass’ curling effort from 25 yards failing to trouble Craig Gordon.
It was fast and it was frantic and after just six minutes the visitors were awarded a penalty when Myles Beerman had what can only be described as a rush of blood to the head.
The 18-year-old left-back slid in to a tackle on Patrick Roberts when the winger was running away from goal.
Referee John Beaton, who was in charge of his first Old Firm game, paused before making his decision but it was clear the foul was in the box and Sinclair sent Wes Foderingham the wrong way with his accurate spot kick.
Rangers now had it all to do and on 18 minutes it got worse for Caixinha’s men as Celtic doubled their advantage.
Stuart Armstrong dispossessed Emerson Hyndman in a dangerous area and he immediately fed the ball to Griffiths who entered the 18-yard box on the left channel.
The striker still had a lot to do but he elected to shoot and his powerful left-foot drive rose past Foderingham and into the opposite top corner of the net.
It was quite simply a crazy start to the game and also a nightmare for Rangers who could have gone even further behind as Celtic put non-stop pressure on their backline.
A powerful tackle on Miller by Jozo Simunovic midway in Celtic’s half allowed Rodgers’ side to start another attack and when Sinclair found McGregor his flick went to Griffiths 18 yards from goal.
The striker, with his confidence high, curled a shot off the crossbar before Sinclair volleyed wide.
The pressure on Rangers’ backline was constant and on 28 minutes a deep cross from Griffiths found Sinclair unmarked and he put his volley from close range into the Copland Road Stand when it looked easier to score.
At this point the Rangers fans got off their seats and rallied behind their team in hope that it would give them a much-needed lift.
It worked to a degree but the players in blue were still struggling to create chances of their own which would get them back into the game, while Celtic had that cutting-edge at the other end of the pitch.
A dangerous cut-back cross from Griffiths saw Clint Hill nervously head the ball across his own goal, but the score stayed at 2-0, despite Kenny Miller coming close with a 25-yard shot seconds before the half-time whistle.
At the break Andy Halliday replaced Joe Dodoo in a bid to add more bite in the centre of midfield, but again Celtic came out of the traps quickest to effectively end Rangers’ hopes of taking anything from the game.
In the first attack of note in the second half Foderingham had to be lively to get a hand to McGregor’s scrambled shot from Armstrong’s near post cross.
The keeper was then relieved to have a Griffiths shot from 12 yards come straight to him after Kieran Tierney had crossed from an advanced position.
Celtic’s third goal was scored in the 52nd minute and it was McGregor who got it.
Roberts teed up the midfielder who hesitated for a second before placing a low, left-foot drive through Tavernier’s legs and into the far corner.
With a 3-0 lead in place the game was already over but Celtic wanted more and on 65 minutes it was four.
Halliday’s foul on McGregor resulted in a yellow card and Griffith’s free-kick into the danger area was met by Dedryck Boyata, the defender glancing a header beyond the helpless Foderingham.
With 10 minutes remaining Rangers pulled one back through captain Miller and it was a well-worked goal.
The club’s Player of the Year played a neat one-two with substitute Joe Garner before placing the ball past Gordon.
The scoring was not finished their though as Celtic went on to make it 5-1.
Mikael Lustig pushed up the park, skipped by Danny Wilson and curled an accurate shot into the net.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Wilson, Hill, Beerman, Holt, Hyndman (Garner 56), Windass, Miller, Dodoo (Halliday 45), Waghorn.
SUBS: Alnwick, O’Halloran, Forrester, Bates, McKay
GOAL: Miller 80
BOOKINGS: Windass, Halliday
CELTIC: Gordon, Simunovic, Brown (Kouassi 90), Griffiths, Sinclair, Armstrong (Rogic 76), Boyata, Lustig, Roberts (Forrest 71), McGregor, Tierney
SUBS: De Vries, Bitton, Bamboa, Sviatchenko
GOALS: Sinclair 7pen, Griffiths 18, McGregor 52, Boyata 66, Lustig 87
BOOKINGS: Boyata, Lustig
REF: John Beaton