As is fast becoming the norm on these occasions, the Light Blues enjoyed the bulk of possession without deploying any real cutting edge where it really mattered.

Celtic seemed content to allow their hosts to boss the game, hit on the counter attack and make the most of set pieces around the penalty box.

For the opening 20 minutes, Rangers pushed the ball about from midfield to defence without any real conviction. Celtic then inevitably scored.

Rangers fans had seen this movie plenty of times before. Gavin Rae was adjudged to have fouled Stilian Petrov wide on the left and when Alan Thompson swung in the free kick Henrik Larsson – who else? – rose unmarked to glance a header past the helpless Stefan Klos.

It was Larsson’s 15th goal against Rangers and his departure from these shores in the summer can’t come quickly enough for everyone at Ibrox.

Like a rugby team, Celtic’s strength at set pieces is no secret and moments later Thompson bent a 25 yard free kick just wide after Craig Moore had tripped Stephen Pearson.

After failing to register a single goal against their oldest rivals in three attempts, Rangers almost broke their duck with an own goal after 32 minutes.

Michael Ball’s run and cross was diverted towards his own net by the outstretched leg of Stan Varga only for David Marshall to produce an outstanding save to deny what looked a certain goal.

Moments later and the rookie keeper was called into action again, tipping over Alan Hutton’s goalbound header.

Rangers were edging ever closer to that elusive goal and should have equalised three minutes before the break.

Ronald de Boer’s lay off found Michael Mols who in turn passed to Peter Lovenkrands on his left, eight yards out and unmarked in front of goal.

It seemed a certainty that the Dane would score but, perhaps feeling threatened by the sight of the outrushing defenders, he slashed at the ball sending it tamely into the side netting.

It was a glaring error and it was to be compounded seven minutes after the re-start when Celtic doubled their lead.

The normally reliable Zurab Khizanishvili was caught dallying on the ball in front of goal by Larsson and although Klos made a great stop from Pearson’s initial effort, Thompson was on hand to sidefoot the loose ball into an empty net.

Stung by that low blow, Rangers rocked and reeled for five minutes with Varga somehow hitting the crossbar from a matter of yards before Klos was required to pull off a staggering block to keep out another Larsson effort from close range.

Chris Burke and Steven Thompson were introduced to try to stem the flow and claw back some pride, if nothing else, but it all seemed to be a case of too little too late.

Some extraordinarily one-sided officiating from Kenny Clark was not helping matters – at one point John Kennedy was allowed to put a headlock on Burke – as Rangers tried in vain to breach the Celtic goal.

Another great block from Marshall to keep out Mols’ turn and shot 15 minutes from time seemed to sum up Rangers’ luck in front of goal.

With nine minutes to go, the Light Blues finally got one back, Thompson powering a header past Marshall from Burke’s inswinging corner.

One can only speculate as to how things may have turned out had that pair started the game.

The goal sparked a late flurry from Rangers, with Michael Ball clipping the ball just over from a tight angle but the equaliser wouldn’t come.

RANGERS (4-4-2): 1 Klos; 28 Hutton, 3 Moore, 15 Khizanishvili (Burke 59), 18 Ball; 11 Rae, 27 Hughes, 12 Malcolm (Ricksen 79), 26 Lovenkrands (Thompson 65); 14 R de Boer, 10 Mols

Subs not used: McGregor, Berg

Booked: Lovenkrands (43), Moore (53)

CELTIC (4-4-2): 22 Marshall; 17 Agathe, 6 Balde, 23 Varga, 41 Kennedy; 19 Petrov, 18 Lennon, 11 Pearson (Miller 77), 8 Thompson; 9 Sutton, 7 Larsson

Subs not used: McGovern, Sylla, Lambert, Mjallby

Booked: None

Man of the Match: Stefan Klos

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