Match Report: Celtic 1-1 Rangers (21/03/21)
Updated: May 22
Headers from Mohamed Elyounoussi and Alfredo Morelos ensured Celtic and Rangers each took home a share of the spoils on Old Firm derby day at Celtic Park.
Newly-crowned champions Rangers were a threat on the occasions that they did foray forward, but it was the deposed Bhoys who largely controlled an encounter that had taken a while to splutter into life.
The hosts did take the lead when Elyounoussi dived to head home Odsonne Édouard’s pinpoint cross with 23 minutes on the clock, following an excellent pass down the left from Callum McGregor.
However, Morelos restored parity for the visitors seven minutes before the break when he swooped in at the back post to nod home after Borna Barišić’s corner had been headed on by Leon Balogun.
Derby day in Glasgow is defined by both the fervent supporters of each side and title ambitions, but with fans urged to stay at home and Rangers having already sealed the league, the atmosphere was rather subdued.
That may have explained the calmer-than-usual opening, as neither side was able to seize the initiative in the early exchanges, and chances were at a premium prior to Elyounoussi and Morelos delivering identical blows.
The exchange of goals did finally put a spring in the step of the game, and shortly after Morelos’s leveller, both sides had wonderful chances to net again.
First, Edouard slipped through and fired a shot away, which initially squirmed under Allan McGregor, but the Rangers goalkeeper managed to recover.
Moments later, Ryan Kent then forced an outstanding save from Celtic’s Scott Bain with a volley, before McGregor was again required at the other end, this time diving to block another Elyounoussi header.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first, with a slow, sluggish feel about it, but the difference this time was that there were no goals to haul up the quality.
David Turnbull, whose set-piece deliveries had kept Steven Gerrard’s men on their toes, had the Bhoys’ best chance of the second period when he raced clear, but McGregor once again denied the hosts.
If one side was to grab a winner as time ticked down, it looked far more likely to be Celtic, as Edouard narrowly nodded over, but Rangers were far from blunt, with Connor Goldson also sending a headed effort over the bar.
However, despite all the anticipation, this game ultimately meant little to either side’s season, and even as the final whistle sounded, both clubs will already be looking ahead to the next campaign.
Morelos finally nets on derby day as Gers stay unbeaten
Alfredo Morelos joined Rangers from Finnish side HJK Helsinki in 2017, and has since gone on to hit 55 goals in 116 league games for the Ibrox side.
However, the Colombian had, until today, thus far failed to find the target against Celtic, with his previous 13 outings all ending without reward.
That duck was emphatically ended today, as Morelos nodded home the equaliser that ensured the Gers’ unbeaten season would continue, with their last league defeat now an astounding 382 days ago.
As much as Rangers have scored the highest number of goals in the league this season, with 78, it has been their defenders and goalkeeper that have truly excelled in this campaign.
Mohamed Elyounoussi’s header today was just the tenth goal the champions had conceded in 33 games this season, with goalkeeper Allan McGregor joint top of the league’s clean sheets tally, with 16.
Backup Jon McLaughlin has also kept eight clean sheets in his nine appearances, demonstrating the quality of the defensive unit that Steven Gerrard has built in his time at the Ibrox helm.
McGregor and Edouard impress for Bhoys
Not being champions is something of an unknown quantity for Celtic of late, as between 2012, when their cross-city rivals suffered demotion to the fourth tier, and 2020, the Bhoys won nine back-to-back titles.
The mythical ten in a row was a step too far, however, as Rangers wrestled back the crown this time around, with Celtic having thus far suffered an unusually flat season.
That culminated in manager Neil Lennon’s resignation in February, but they are still far and away Rangers’ most likely challengers when Steven Gerrard’s side come to defend their trophy next campaign.
Based on several individual showings today, there is much promise that they will be able to run Rangers far closer than they have managed this season.
Two such players to impress were Callum McGregor and Odsonne Édouard, who took advantage of a nervous Leon Balogun at right-back to dominate Celtic’s left side.
Their most notable moment of quality came when Frenchman Édouard’s deliciously-weighted cross teed up Mohamed Elyounoussi to open the scoring, with the move having been opened up by McGregor’s through ball.
Left-back Diego Laxalt, on loan from AC Milan, was also able to draw several fouls with his impressive technical ability, and the Uruguayan was unlucky to be rather harshly booked in the second half.
This was a Celtic side that gave a good account of themselves, and far from being despondent that their dominance of the top division is over, the Bhoys can look to the immediate future with optimism.
Glasgow divided, yet united
The footballing rivalry between the top dogs of Glasgow is frequently marked out as one of the most intense in the world, with the city utterly split between the green of Celtic and the blue of Rangers.
However, the two sides are not irredeemable enemies, and Bhoys captain Scott Brown’s gesture to Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara a perfect example of the power of unity.
After Kamara suffered alleged racist abuse during his side’s Europa League second leg match against Slavia Prague at Ibrox on Thursday, Brown walked over to him during the warm up to offer a message of support.
What was said remains between Brown and Kamara, as it should, but from the TV footage, Kamara clearly appreciated the gesture, and it was a heartening moment to witness.
Racism has no place anywhere in this world, and every single one of us has a role to play in eradicating it.
Celtic: Bain (GK) 7, Kenny 6, Welsh 6, Ajer 6, Laxalt 7, Brown (c) 6 (Griffiths 89’ 6), McGregor 8, Christie 6, Turnbull 7 (Forrest 78’ 6), Elyounoussi 8 (Rogic 85’ 6), Edouard 8 (Soro 89’ 6).
Unused: Barkas (GK), Taylor, Duffy, Bitton, Klimala.
Rangers: McGregor (GK) 8, Balogun 6 (Patterson 56’ 6), Goldson (c) 6, Helander 6, Barišić 7, Kamara 6, Davis 7, Aribo 6 (Wright 77’ 6). Hagi 7 (Arfield 65’ 6), Morelos 8 (Roofe 77’ 6), Kent 7.
Unused: McLaughlin (GK), Bassey, Defoe, Itten, Zungu.
The cover image for this post was sourced from Wikimedia Commons under the
(https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Celtic_Park_during_an_Old_Firm_derby_between_Celtic_FC_and_Rangers_FC.jpg), and is attributed to the author, Vincenzo.togni. It was retrieved by me on the 20th March 2021.