The weekend’s 6-2 defeat brought back memories of the 5-1 loss at the same venue two seasons ago but it was no more than Celtic deserved. And the only crumb of comfort the Light Blue legions can gather from the result is that Dick Advocaat went on to steer his team to the domestic treble that year.
I said last week that I worried how the Rangers’ defence would cope with top quality strikers and the fears were realized as Henrik Larsson and Chris Sutton put them to the sword.
Gers surrendered the lead inside a minute and from then on it was a nightmare uphill struggle. It was as if the whole Blues back four were playing together for the first time. They made basic mistakes, which you just can’t afford to do at this level.
Celtic were more up for it. They wanted to win more and they went for it from the first whistle to the last. They played well but they did not even have to do so to get the three points because by the time Rangers started getting it together they were already 3-0 down!
There was a slight suspicion that Sutton’s goal in the first minute was offside and that Rod Wallace’s at 3-1 wasn’t. But these are decisions which you sometimes get and sometimes don’t. Anyway, these things even themselves out over a season.
The marking for the Hoops’ second and third goals – from Stilian Petrov and Paul Lambert – was shocking and that’s why the Little General had to take drastic action.
Summer signing Fernando Ricksen was the fall guy. I thought he looked a little nervous with the occasion which you can’t afford to be in an Old Firm game and he was sacrificed for Tugay Kerimoglu as early as the 23rd minute.
In fairness, the Turk played some good stuff and made a bit of a difference. But it was 3-0 by that time and it was always going to be difficult for him to make an impact. I always felt Rangers could score goals at Celtic Park, simply because the three wee men up front had been playing so well.
And that proved to be the case five minutes before half-time. However, it wasn’t one of the forwards who netted, it was midfielder Claudio Reyna who headed home after a good cross from Wallace. The American’s goal gave them a bit of a lifeline but again they lost one not long after the break when Larsson finished superbly.
But once more the Light Blues showed some fighting spirit to get back into it. Dodds scored from the penalty spot in 58 minutes after Stephane Mahe had fouled Neil McCann inside the box. However, just as you thought there might have been a glimmer of hope it was Larsson who put the game beyond doubt.
His glancing header in the 64th minute deflated Rangers’ spirit. Things went from bad to worse when Barry Ferguson was given his marching orders for his second bookable offence with just eight minutes left. I don’t know whether it was for mouthing off or the handball but either way it was a little bit of stupidity from the youngster.
And even more stupid was Baz’s gesture to the Celtic fans as he trudged off.
Everyone was disappointed, not just him but you have to accept the defeat. Rangers have beaten Celtic so many times over the last couple of seasons and when it’s your turn you have to take it on the chin. Barry will have to learn from that.
And to really rub it in, Sutton bagged his second of the game bang on the 90th minute to end what was a miserable day for Rangers. Losing the three points or even 6-2, isn’t the worry – it’s the bigger picture.
On Friday, everyone was going on about how great a Champions League draw it was but if Gers continue to play like that defensively they won’t get anywhere in Europe.