Four years after the Old Firm last met on league duty they finally renewed hostilities at a packed Celtic Park. Before kick-off there was the odd sight of, literally, thousands of Celtic fans hanging around waiting for the Rangers team bus so they could greet it with a chorus of “You’re not Rangers anymore”. The game had an added spectacle provided by Celtic’s “safe-standing” section. Bedecked in green, white and orange bin-liners (which they wore throughout) it gave some extra colour to that area of the ground.
The opening five minutes were, unsurprisingly, frenetic with both teams charging forward at every opportunity without ever testing either goalkeeper. Rangers looked comfortable in possession and were more than happy playing the ball in to feet or spraying long passes. Celtic Midfielder Nir Bitton picked up an early booking for a lazy challenge on Josh Windass.
Australian midfielder Tom Rogic was Celtic’s biggest threat in the early part of the game with almost all of Celtic’s attacking play coming through him. As the first half wore on Celtic started to control the game, pinning Rangers into their own half for spells, but couldn’t find any way through the Rangers backline.
Just before the half hour, Niko Kranjcar was introduced to the wonder of Willie Collum when he was booked for a very soft foul on Rogic.
Moussa Dembele gave Celtic the lead on 32 minutes when he rose unchallenged to head home a corner. Rangers have been poor defensively at corners and need to stop giving cheap goals away from set-pieces.
The goal seemed to rattle Rangers. Some slack passing saw Rangers continually give possession away cheaply and it was a poor pass from Rob Kiernan which led to Celtic’s second. Kiernan tried to play the ball out from defence but it fell straight to Dembele who charged forward, leaving Senderos for dead, before firing past Foderingham.
Dembele’s second rallied the visitors and the immediately pulled one back. James Tavernier’s cross was headed back across goal and Joe Garner headed home from a yard to give Rangers a lift before the break.
Warburton could obviously see where some of Rangers’ problems were making an uncharacteristic half-time change, replacing the ineffective Kranjcar with Andy Halliday, and the change looked to have re-invigorated the light blues. Barrie McKay and Kenny Miller both had chances and McKay was only inches away from grabbing an equaliser.
Celtic grabbed a third on 60 minutes when Sinclair coolly slotted past Foderingham after both Kiernan and Senderos went after the ball leaving the ex-Man City winger free to place his shot in the corner.
Rangers lost Rob Kiernan to injury with 20 minutes left. Instead of the straight swap with Clint Hill, Mark Warburton gambled on putting Harry Forrester on. Just three minutes later Philippe Senderos got himself sent off for a ridiculous handball leaving Rangers with no central defenders on the pitch and Joey Barton playing as a makeshift defender.
Dembele grabbed his hat-trick, and Celtic’s fourth, with seven minutes to go as Celtic made their numerical advantage count. A quick break saw a long ball played to Dembele who took a touch before firing low into the corner of the net to seal his place in Old Firm history with the first treble since Ally McCoist over 30 years ago.
Stuart Armstrong grabbed a fifth in injury time. Tierney’s cut back went unchallenged and Armstrong done well to finish.
Rangers were only ever in the game for short spells and never looked like getting something from the game. There are now some serious questions for Mark Warburton and his side if Rangers are to compete for the title.
Celtic: De Vries; Lustig, Toure, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Brown (McGregor 73’), Bitton; Rogic (Armstrong 53’), Sinclair, Forrest (Roberts 62’); Dembele
Subs: Gordon, Izaguirre, Cifti, Gamboa
Goals: Dembele 32’, 41’ 83’, Sinclair 60’, Armstrong 90+2’
Rangers: Foderingham, Tavernier, Kiernan (Forrester 71’), Senderos, Wallace; Barton, Windass, Kranjcar (Halliday 46’); McKay, Garner, Miller (Waghorn 62’)
Subs: Gilks, Hill, Hodson, O’Halloran,
Goals: Garner 44’