DESPITE containing and matching Celtic for so long in this Old Firm encounter, Mark Warburton’s side fell to a 1-0 defeat courtesy of Moussa Dembele’s goal three minutes from time.
Rangers had turned in a sterling defensive effort with goalkeeper Matt Gilks in tremendous form, but their resistance was finally broken in heartbreaking style for the Light Blues.
The game began in standard Old Firm fashion – fast, frenetic and full blooded as both sides looked to get an early foothold on proceedings.
It took a whole 10 minutes for a chance of note to be created, and it came as Tom Rogic worked a yard inside the Rangers box for a shot, with Rob Kiernan doing well to deflect his eventual effort over the bar.
Rangers then thought they had a penalty as Barrie McKay went down in the box under a Jozo Simunovic challenge. Referee Craig Thomson blew his whistle and looked initially to be pointing to the spot before booking the Gers wing man for diving.
At the other end, Matt Gilks had to look smart to turn a Scott Sinclair shot away with his outstretched foot when the Celtic striker got clear of Clint Hill, although the goalkeeper was lucky to escape when he was loose with a Jason Holt backpass – gifting the ball straight to Rogic before he recovered with another decent save.
Rogic was Celtic’s key man in the early stages, and he had another shot on goal on the 25-miute mark which slid wide of Gilks’ right-hand post.
Around that time though, Rangers were beginning to see a lot more of the ball and were winning it in higher areas, although Craig Gordon remained untested for the remainder of the half.
Within minutes of the restart, Erik Sviatchenko had the ball in the net for Celtic, but before his header hit the net, he was penalised for a clear push on Clint Hill.
Craig Gordon then had to gather a decent James Tavernier drive from outside the area before fellow ‘keeper Gilks made a superb block to deny Sinclair again with his foot as the Celtic striker played a neat one-two with Rogic to race into the area.
The side in green and white really did have Gers under a lot of pressure in the early stages of the second half, but after Kenny Miller did well to win a free kick on halfway, it was taken quickly and all of a sudden the Light Blues were flooding forward.
Tavernier picked up on the left and found Jason Holt lurking just outside the six-yard box, his effort was blocked by Simunovic before the ball broke to Kenny Miller with Gordon saving from him.
Matt Gilks’ fine afternoon was continuing at the other end with fine saves to deny Moussa Dembele twice in the space of a couple of minutes before touching a Sinclair free-kick onto the bar as the game entered its final quarter.
Rangers breaks in the game were few and far between, but after a superb Andy Halliday block in the area, the ball broke for Tavernier who spread the ball wide for Wallace before he again found Tavernier on the edge of the area for the shot which was gathered by Gordon.
Wallace then broke again and flashed a tempting looking ball across the face of goal which substitute Joe Garner was inches away from connecting with, and the Rangers captain was then involved again in his own area with a quite outstanding tackle to deny Sinclair, and then Gilks saved yet another Celtic effort with his foot, this time denying Stuart Armstrong at the back post.
But he could do nothing as with just three minutes left of normal time, Moussa Dembele latched onto a Leigh Griffiths’ cross inside the six-yard area to poke Celtic in front. Griffiths did well to get away from Wallace before squaring for his strike partner to flick home.
Indeed, it could have been two for Brendan Rodgers’ men in the first minute of injury time, but Matt Gilks had other ideas as he beat away an attempted Griffiths’ chip.
RANGERS: Gilks; Hodson, Kiernan, Hill, Wallace; Halliday, Windass (Garner,70), Holt; McKay (Dodoo, 78), Miller (Waghorn, 70) Tavernier.
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, O’Halloran, Crooks, Senderos.
CELTIC: Gordon, Simunovic, Bitton (Armstrong, 62), Brown, Dembele, Sinclair, Rogic (Griffiths, 70), Lustig, Sviatchenko, Forrest (Gamboa, 90), Tierney.
SUBS NOT USED: De Vries, Toure, Roberts, McGregor.