Rangers earned a more than credible draw against Celtic on Saturday as the game finished 0-0. It was a match where both sides should have scored, and a draw was a fair result. For Rangers fans, there was a lot to be encouraged by.
With so many injuries coming into the match, Rangers started with a 4-5-1 which included Kranjcar from the start. For Celtic, the only player who started this one who didn’t play in the first fixture at Ibrox was Ajer in defence.
Rangers intent was clear very early on. The team was looking to press the game every time Celtic played a backwards pass, or had the ball facing their own goal. On the 5th minute, this created a great chance. Candeias closed down well in midfield, and both he and Windass forced Lustig into a loose pass. Windass was able to run clear, and played in Morelos. From an angle he’s scored a few goals this season, his shot was saved by Gordon, and the rebound scrambled clear.
Within the next five minutes, Rangers created two other chances. Some nice play on the right saw Holt get to the byline. His cutback was just behind Tavernier, who was forced to play it to McCrorie on the edge of the box. His shot was closed down, and the chance gone. Just after that, some strong defending from Rangers saw a ball cleared and brilliantly controlled by Candeias. He ran from just inside his own half and looked to play a one-two with Morelos. Candeias was through, but the ball from Morelos was poor and Celtic were able to clear.
Celtic started to create chances and get more of the ball after that first 10 minutes. James Forrest had possibly their best chance, cutting across the Rangers defence and shooting with his left foot. Wes Foderingham got a touch to the shot to put it wide, with Declan John also doing well to jump over the ball and avoid the own goal.
From a free kick, Celtic had another great chance. A Boyata header seemed to deflect off of Alves, and looped towards goal. Foderingham managed to get a hand to it, and it fell to Sinclair at the back post. His first effort was blocked by Tavernier, and his second was weak and fell into the hands of the Rangers goalkeeper.
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From that incident, Bruno Alves picked up an injury and had to be replaced by David Bates. Straight away, Bates was called into action, having to close down some space to see a ball out, then cut out a dangerous cross. Celtic were very much dominating possession at this point of the match.
Their next chance came from Sinclair getting some joy on the left. He got past Tavernier and played a great ball across the six yard box. Fortunately, Dembele was unable to get on to the end of it. This was due to Wilson boxing him out, a good bit of defending most didn’t seem to notice at the time.
There were long shots going high and wide, and crosses being cleared, but Celtic didn’t create another good chance until the end of the half. Some link up between Forrest and Armstrong saw the latter get in behind for the first time in the match. His ball from the right was just too far ahead of Dembele, but fell to Sinclair at the back post. He somehow put the ball wide, the sort of chance he wouldn’t normally miss.
At halftime, most Rangers fans felt we were holding somewhat and a bit lucky not to be behind. The chances early in the game hadn’t been as clear-cut as those Celtic had created.
Just two minutes into the second half, Rangers were unlucky not to score. Some good pressing forced Sinclair into a mistake, and Morelos picked up the ball. He held it up well, and played it wide to Candeias. Tavernier had made a great run from right back, and the cross was played just a little behind him. His side-volley was well hit, and forced a great save from Gordon.
Rangers were clearly on the front foot in the second half. Candeias was unlucky not to find Windass with a great cross, and numerous corners were overhit and not taken advantage of. The best chance of the match was to fall to Morelos, though, and will be one we look back on in years to come and wonder just how it stayed out.
A quick free kick from Kranjcar gave the ball to Tavernier deep inside his own half. He ran at Celtic and easily beat Armstrong and Sinclair to get to the byline. His cross was perfect, finding Morelos in the six yard box. Morelos in turn met it with his head, placing it low and back across goal. Somehow, Gordon managed to get his foot to the ball despite diving the other way and looking beat. The Rangers striker had his hands on his head, as did every Rangers fan watching the game at the time.
Not long after that, Morelos had another chance. This time, Kranjcar had a shot blocked, and Tavernier played a great ball first time from the rebound. Morelos tried to guide a header home from around 8 yards, but the contact was poor and it went wide.
Celtic didn’t really create much of note in the second half. The Rangers defence was solid, and players like Dembele and Sinclair were replaced as they were ineffective. They had a couple of efforts from Ntcham just outside the box which were closed down, and very little else.
Unfortunately, Rangers couldn’t get that one last chance to win the game, and the match played out to the goalless draw. When you consider the issues Rangers have had going into the game, it was a great performance from the team. Celtic were certainly not at their best, but with so many experienced players out and the early injury to Alves in the game, it’s hard to argue that Rangers were either. The players who played all put in a real shift, even if some didn’t have great games individually, and the fans were sent home happy with what they saw.
Gordon, Brown, Dembele (Griffiths, 61), Sinclair (Ntcham, 72), Armstrong, Boyata, Lustig, Ajer, McGregor, Forrest, Tierney.
SUBS NOT USED: de Vries, Simunovic, Bitton, Edouard, Johnston.
Foderingham, Tavernier, Alves (Bates, 18), Wilson, John, McCrorie, Holt, Windass, Candeias, Kranjcar (Pena, 80), Morelos (Herrera, 88)
SUBS NOT USED: Alnwick, Hodson, Hardie, Barjonas.