RANGERS ended a decade like no other in the club’s history in the best possible fashion this afternoon by beating Celtic at Parkhead.
The Light Blues were sensational to defeat Neil Lennon’s side, and after Ryan Kent’s first-half opener was canceled-out by Odsonne Edouard, Nikola Katic netted a stunning header early in the second half to put Gers two points behind their rivals with a game in hand.
From the side which defeated both Hibernian and Kilmarnock in the last nine days, manager Steven Gerrard made two changes.
Both Alfredo Morelos and Steven Davis, the latter making a return from injury, came off the bench against Killie on Boxing Day, and both made the XI in place of Jermain Defoe and Scott Arfield respectively.
After winning kick-off, the visitors had plenty of early possession, and any time Celtic did have the ball, Gers did well to press and win it back.
James Tavernier had the first shot of any note on eight minutes, hitting a first time effort from the corner of the box on the end of a Scott Brown headed clearance.
Joe Aribo then did superbly down the right but his cross was gathered by Fraser Forster before it could reach Ryan Kent, while Alfredo Morelos wonderfully took down a long Tavernier ball, but Christopher Jullien got in the way to prevent the Colombian playing-in Aribo.
Morelos then did get a shot away after turning Kris Ajer on the edge of the box, but the pressure on him from the defender meant it lacked venom and was gathered easily by Forster.
A second Morelos effort from around 25-yards was again clutched by the goalkeeper, while Celtic’s first effort came on 19 minutes with Ryan Christie sending an effort over Allan McGregor’s bar from 25-yards.
Steven Davis then had a front-post header on the end of a Borna Barisic free-kick cleared, while from a corner, Forster saved with his feet from Davis.
Then on 32 minutes, Celtic were awarded a penalty. Nikola Katic was shown a yellow card for fouling Jullien at a corner, with Ryan Christie stepping up to take it.
He shot to the right, but Allan McGregor went the correct way and got two strong hands to the ball to make a stunning save before Katic steamed in to turn the ball out for a corner.
That sparked a succession of corners, and Davis was required to do a defensive job, blocking a Jullien header on the line.
It looked like Celtic had turned the tide in terms of possession and play, but on 37 minutes, Rangers sensationally took the lead.
Brilliant play from Borna Barisic down the left at the end of some outstanding one-touch football ended with him picking out the incoming Ryan Kent on the edge of the area, and his first-time shot was just wonderful as it kissed the inside of the post on its way into the back of the net.
There’s no doubt it was deserved for the Light Blues, but the lead lasted just five minutes, with Celtic getting a huge slice of luck for an equaliser.
Callum McGregor’s weak effort took a huge deflection off Odsonne Edouard’s hand, and that was enough to wrong-foot McGregor and send the ball over the line.
It was harsh on Gers, who had been quite superb, and on 50 minutes, they came ever-so close to retaking the lead.
Connor Goldson played a top-drawer diagonal to get Kent away on the left, and he crossed from just shy of the by-line.
The ball reached Morelos at the back post, but it was bouncing, and on the stretch, he could only send it over the bar from six-yards out.
A second ball from a Tavernier free-kick was then sent into the area by Kent, with a Goldson header somehow smuggled behind for a corner.
That Barisic ball was cleared behind by Brown, but from the second corner, on 56 minutes, Gers re-took the lead.
Barisic’s ball in once again was sensational, and rising to nod the ball into the net at the front post with a superb leap was Nikola Katic – the Croatian certainly loving his third goal of the season as he sprinted to celebrate in front of the jubilant 800 away supporters.
The lead was preserved once again by Davis, blocking another Jullien effort off the line from a corner, while McGregor made an excellent save to turn a Boli Bolingoli curing effort around the post.
Aribo had a decent chance on the break on 77 minutes when Morelos slipped it left for him on the edge of the area at the end of a lightning break, but he was forced wide and eventually shot into the stand.
Bolingoli had another effort after peeling off the back of Katic to get on the end of a McGregor ball, but it lacked power and was straight at Allan McGregor.
Beyond the four minutes of injury time, there was further drama with Alfredo Morelos shown a second yellow card for simulation after going down in the box under the challenge of Olivier Ntcham.
That sparked angry scenes on the touchline with coach Michael Beale also shown a red card – but referee Kevin Clancy brought the game to a close soon after – and all 11 Rangers players plus the bench and staff charged down into the corner to celebrate with their supporters.
A decade that opened with centre-half Lee McCulloch making himself a hero at Parkhead with a headed goal ends with Niko Katic doing likewise this afternoon as Gers win here for the first time since October 2010.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Barisic; Davis (Edmundson, 90), Jack, Kamara (Arfield, 80); Aribo, Morelos, Kent.
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Flanagan, Ojo, Barker, Defoe.
CELTIC: Forster, Jullien, Brown, Christie (Griffiths, 80), Johnston (Bitton, 68), Edouard, Bolingoli, Frimpong, Ajer, McGregor, Forrest (Ntcham, 68).
SUBS NOT USED: Gordon, Bauer, Hayes, Rogic.
REFEREE: Kevin Clancy