Alex McLeish made the surprise decision of reinstating Ronald Waterreus between the sticks for this encounter following Stefan Klos’ mishaps in the CIS Cup clash 10 days ago.

Fit again Brahim Hemdani came straight back into the side for his Old Firm debut, while Marvin Andrews and Francis Jeffers also started the match.

There was no denying that a vastly improved performance was needed from the Light Blues to take anything from this match and they started brightly at the home of their greatest rivals.

With four minutes on the clock Fernando Ricksen received Barry Ferguson’s long ball forward on the right flank and delivered a fine cross to Hamed Namouchi on the edge of the area.

Instead of controlling the ball, however, the Tunisian tried to volley his shot and missed the ball completely.

It was a disappointing effort from the former Cannes starlet as had plenty of time to set himself.

In contrast to the Cup game earlier this month Rangers were first to every ball and after seven minutes Ferguson’s long ball over the top looked to be heading straight for Celtic defender Mo Camara.

But he miss-controlled and Franny Jeffers was on to the lose ball in a second, turning Steven McManus before firing a shot just over the bar.

Ricksen and Namouchi combined again 60 seconds later but Arthur Boruc held the 22-year-old’s shot well.

So far so good for the visitors, but as the Light Blue faithful are all too aware, Gers have a habit of making life difficult for themselves and after 12 minutes their task became even tougher.

Shunsuke Nakamura pounced on Alan Hutton’s lose ball into midfield and raced forward leaving the sides three on three.

He found Shaun Maloney on the right of the area and his low cross to John Hartson left the unmarked Welshman with a simple tap in.

It was a costly slip by Rangers but they immediately set about levelling the scores.

Barry Ferguson looped the ball into Namouchi, who was lurking at the back post, but his header dropped just past Boruc’s goal.

After 22 minutes Sotirios Kyrgiakos hit a diagonal ball to Prso on the edge of box but the Croatian tried a quick shot and blasted high over the bar.

Besides their all-important goal Celtic failed to register a shot at Ronald Waterreus in the first half, but after just 10 minutes of the second period they doubled their lead.

John Hartson raced onto Petrov’s through ball and looked certain to score had it not been for a timely intervention from Ricksen.

Although the resultant corner was cleared, the ball came straight back into the box and Bobo Balde rose above everyone to nod home.

Only five minutes earlier Rangers claimed for a penalty when Namouchi hit Prso’s cross off Telfer’s hand, but it would have been a soft award.

There was still plenty time to try and salvage something from the match and Peter Lovenkrands came on for Hutton to offer a more attacking option.

But with 60 minutes on the clock, Gers’ troubles deepened when Aiden McGeady grabbed a third getting ahead of Ricksen to tap home Petrov’s cross.

The Light Blues were dealt an even harder blow when Dado Prso appeared to pull his hamstring while tracking back and he will now be a serious doubt for Wednesday’s Champions League in Porto.

Lovenkrands injected a burst of pace into the Rangers attack and did his best on the left when brought into play, but the visitors just couldn’t find a way through. 

Jeffers came close in the 76th minute when he managed to direct Namouchi’s cross goal-bound but Boruc did well to adjust his feet and stop the ball going over the line.

Ricksen tried his luck from a free-kick 25-yards out in the dying minutes but once again Boruc saved, albeit at the second time of asking.

CELTIC: Boruc; Telfer, Balde, McManus, Camara; Nakamura (Agathe 75), Petrov, Lennon, McGeady, Maloney (Thompson 55), Hartson

SUBS: Marshall, Virgo, Varga, AgathLawson, Wallace 

BOOKINGS: Nakamura 74

RANGERS: Waterreus; Hutton (Lovenkrands 51), Andrews, Kyrgiakos, Murray; Namouchi, Ricksen, Ferguson, Hemdani, Prso (Thompson 66), Jeffers

SUBS: Klos, Pierre-Fanfan, Rae, Burke, McCormack

BOOKINGS: Andrews 47, Namouchi 68

REFEREE: Dougie McDonald

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