Rangers suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Celtic on Saturday afternoon. It was a win that the away side deserved, and the positive spells for Rangers were all too fleeting. The game was a real reminder that we have a way to go to be challenging.
The injuries to Alves and John meant they missed out, and McCrorie and Hodson took their places. That aside, the rest of the team that lined up against Partick on Tuesday night started the game. Celtic started with a team that contained none of their signings over the summer. Rodgers looked to ensure his team were experienced in this sort of game, which the Rangers side lacked.
In the very first minute, Foderingham was forced into a good save, tipping over a Rogic shot from distance. The pattern of the play became very clear early on – Rangers would sit and try to hit on the break, and let Celtic have a lot of the ball. Pena was asked to make it difficult for Brown to get a lot of time on the ball. Morelos was somewhat isolated up top, as both Candeias and Windass had to do a lot of defensive work.
Rangers were unlucky not to get an early penalty. A loose challenge by Simunovic meant that Morelos had to hurdle his leg and went down in the box. If it was anywhere else on the park, I’m convinced a foul would have been given, but because Morelos tried to draw attention to the challenge, the referee took the easy option of not giving anything. In the match preview, I said that Rangers needed luck to be on their side. This was an example that it wasn’t going to go that way on the day.
Celtic created some good chances despite the defensive set up of Rangers. Roberts was having a lot of joy against Hodson, and his play led to Rogic being played in behind the defence. A combination of McCrorie and Foderingham crowded him out. Roberts would create a chance for himself soon after, taking Hodson on the outside before cutting in. Again, Foderingham was able to block the shot.
Rangers were defending deep, and able to restrict chances to some extent. Corners were cleared, long shots not causing issues. One good chance for Celtic led to Armstrong getting through, but he lost his footing before he could get a shot away.
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Going forward, Rangers had little of note. A couple of breaks could have led to chances, but crosses were cleared. Morelos almost got on the end of a Tavernier cross at the back post, but there were no shots on target. Pena and Morelos were working hard and fighting to hold the ball up. Dorrans has had a couple of long shots on his left foot which were well off target. Rangers were able to get some better possession and territory after 20 minutes of the game, but never created a chance which could be described as good.
Just before half time, there were a couple of flashpoints. Morelos was booked for a late challenge, the type that the referee had let go earlier in the game. The inconsistency riled our players and manager, and that was heightened moments later when Brown appeared to hit Morelos with an elbow challenging for a high ball. Looking at the replays, I don’t believe the challenge was intentional, but it was certainly dangerous and worth at least a booking. The halftime whistle went as Caixinha went crazy on the sidelines. He confronted Brown on the way off, and the players split them up and got down the tunnel.
Rangers were clearly second best in most areas, but they had fought well and kept it tight. The fans were hoping that could continue. The real highlight of the first half had been the performance of McCrorie, and that in many ways summed up the game from our perspective.
The second half started the way the first half had. Sinclair drove at our defence and was crowded out for an early corner. Celtic kept the pressure on, and made the breakthrough on 50 minutes. A corner wasn’t cleared, with both Cardoso and McCrorie unable to get a foot on the ball, and Rogic lashed it home. Hodson could have done better in his challenge for the shot as well. It was a poor goal to lose, and definitely dented the confidence of the players.
Caixinha very quickly changed things. Pena, who was doing more of a defensive job in an advanced area, was withdrawn for Kenny Miller. Despite Celtic still winning most second balls, Rangers did press for an equaliser. The moment which killed the game for Rangers wasn’t the second goal, but a wonder save by Craig Gordon. A cross was knocked back over by Miller, and Morelos met it with a header in the six yard box. Somehow, Gordon got a hand to it from point blank range. It would turn out to be the only shot on target Rangers had, but it was a great chance. Had we equalised there, we had a chance to turn the tide of the game.
Windass had a shot from around 30 yards which went just past the post, but it was Celtic who scored the second goal of the game. A pass inbetween Hodson and McCrorie found Griffiths making a good run, and he struck it well to make it 2-0. It was only 65 minutes into the game, but you could see that Rangers didn’t have the energy or belief to get back into the game.
From there, Celtic largely saw the game out. Rangers weren’t able to create any good chances, and Celtic missed a few themselves. The extra half-hour that most of the Rangers players went through on Tuesday suddenly seemed to have an effect. I had mentioned a need for confidence in the preview for the match, and that our squad had yet to find it. That was evident in the second half when Celtic stepped up their level. I believe the effort was there from our team, but both luck and quality was not, and those are needed to win the bigger matches.
Overall, we didn’t deserve anything from the game. The gameplan wasn’t a mistake, but we needed just a bit more ability. From here, Rangers will have to pick up results, and to go on a run of wins. They need to gain some belief in their ability and consistency in performance. Caixinha hasn’t done loads wrong in the league matches, though there have been some mistakes. However, it’s fair to say some luck has gone against us. If Caixinha is the sort of manager who just doesn’t get that bit of fortune, then he won’t last long. I think our team has the potential to be much better, but they have to show it very soon.
Foderingham; Tavernier, McCrorie, Cardoso, Hodson; Candeias (Nemane, 84), Jack, Pena (Miller, 53), Dorrans, Windass (Herrera, 73); Morelos.
SUBS NOT USED: Alnwick, Dalcio, Holt, Wilson.
Gordon, Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney, Roberts (Forrest, 68), Brown, Armstrong, Rogic (McGregor, 62), Sinclair, Griffiths (Dembele, 80)
SUBS NOT USED: De Vries, Bitton, Hayes, Ntcham.