CELTIC won this afternoon’s Old Firm derby at Parkhead, with Olivier Ntcham’s goal midway through the second half enough to seal victory.
Rangers pushed for a leveler late on, with James Tavernier having the best opportunity for an equaliser.
From the side which so gloriously made it by Ufa on Thursday to reach the Europa League, out went Jon Flanagan and Daniel Candeias, with their places taken by Borna Barisic and Kyle Lafferty.
Being the home side, it was always going to be Celtic who looked to begin on the front foot, and it was they who made much of the early play without ever really threatening Allan McGregor.
The Celtic captain Scott Brown found himself in Willie Collum’s book inside 10 minutes for a strong challenge on Kyle Lafferty, but the game was struggling to come to life in the early stages.
Rangers’ first real opening came on the 15 minute mark. James Tavernier took a throw deep in the home half to find Ryan Kent, and while his cross was intercepted, Scott Arfield did well to win it back and lay the ball off to Ryan Jack, who’s shot from around 20-yards slipped just over the bar.
On 25 minutes, Allan McGregor made a fine stop from a Callum McGregor free-kick, before a few minutes later, the stopper made a decent near post save from another free-kick, this time from Olivier Ntcham.
Time and again Celtic threatened, either from the set-piece or from open play, but either through some fine Gers defending or a lack of quality from the home side, their attacks came to nothing.
However, the bar came to the rescue of the visitors twice in the space of a minute, firstly from a long-range James Forrest effort and then from a Mikael Lustig header from an Ntcham corner.
McGregor was then called into action again, making a wonder-save from point-blank range from Odsonne Edouard, as he connected, unmarked, to a Callum McGregor cross at the back post.
Forays forward from the visitors were few and far between, although on 42 minutes, Kyle Lafferty was inches away from connecting to a Tavernier cross from the right wing.
Into the second half, and yet again, Allan McGregor made his presence felt with a wonderful save from Ntcham. The striker cut in from the left and let fly for goal from 25-yards out, and somehow, the Gers goalkeeper got a hand to it to turn the ball onto the bar before collecting before any hooped players could steam in for the rebound.
At the other end, after his initial corner was cleared at the front post, Borna Barisic delivered for Nikola Katic at the back-post, but under pressure, he could only head straight at Gordon.
The pattern from the first half was continuing though, with Celtic enjoying plenty of set-pieces and opportunities to get the ball into the box, and Rangers clearing the ball away on almost every occasion.
Indeed, as the half progressed, Gers were beginning to see a little more of the ball in advanced areas, but then, on 62 minutes, the home side took the lead.
Ryan Jack appeared to be fouled by Tom Rogic on the edge of the Gers box, but nothing was given, and the Australian was able to charge forward through midfield. He sprayed it wide to Forrest, and despite Gers getting men back, he was able to find the incoming Ntcham at the back post, and he had the simple task of finishing.
Lustig could have made it 2-0 soon after, flicking a near-post header just wide of McGregor’s post, while Alfredo Morelos battled to win the ball from Dedryck Boyata deep in the Celtic half before cutting in from the wing and stinging the palms of Craig Gordon at his front post.
Tavernier and Lafferty combined again in the 75th minute, with the full-back finding his striker with a decent ball, but he couldn’t quite manage to turn it home, while a Tavernier corner was met by Katic, but a Celtic head also met it to clear the danger.
McGregor made another tremendous save from Leigh Griffiths this time from a free-kick as the minutes ticked down, while fine wing play from Morelos and Daniel Candeias saw the Portuguese slip Tavernier in, but from an acute angle, he fired wide of the far post.
Gers really pushed for a leveler right to the end, but it wasn’t to be for Steven Gerrard’s side this afternoon.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Barisic; Jack (Middleton 81), Arfield, Ejaria; Kent (Candeias 87), Lafferty, Morelos.
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Worrall, Flanagan, Halliday, McCrorie.
CELTIC: Gordon, Brown, Rogic (Christie, 77), Boyata, Ntcham, Edouard (Griffiths, 67), Lustig, Ajer, McGregor, Forrest (Sinclair, 90), Tierney.
SUBS NOT USED: Bain, Gamboa, Benkovic, Kouassi.
REFEREE: Mr William Collum