Rangers have opened up a four-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership after an impressive 2-0 win over Celtic in this afternoon’s Old Firm thanks to a Connor Goldson double at Parkhead, securing the Gers’ first back-to-back wins over their bitter rivals since 2009.
Gerrard sprung a surprise with his starting XI, handing a place to Brandon Barker while Ianis Hagi and Ryan Jack had to settle for a seat on the bench alongside the returning Joe Aribo as part of four changes from the win over Ross County.
Despite the lack of any fans inside Celtic Park, it was the usual frenetic start as both sides looked to get forward and exploit gaps in the others’ defence, with Rangers looking the more likely to make something happen.
With less than ten minutes played, Goldson headed the Gers into a deserved lead after a well-worked set-piece caught the Celtic defence flat-footed.
The defender timed his run perfectly to stay onside before heading beyond Barkas from close range after leaving Elyounoussi chasing shadows to steer a header into the bottom corner.
Celtic slowly started to get back into the game and had a golden opportunity to draw level but Elyounoussi got his attempt to lob McGregor all wrong and sent his effort way over the bar.
Rangers’ early control of the game had given way to a more open contest by the 20th minute and the Gers defence had to look sharp a couple of times to repel Celtic’s attempts at finding an equaliser.
Both Goldson and Helander made crucial blocks to halt attacks and Glen Kamara showed some really nice footwork on a couple of occasions to break up play and get the ball heading in the right direction.
When Rangers were put under pressure, the Gers looked comfortable playing their way out of trouble and trying to build an attack of their own rather than simply clearing their lines and resetting the defence.
As the opening 45 headed towards its conclusion, Gerrard will have been pretty happy with how his side had performed while still having one or two issues to try and fix during the break as they looked to maintain their slender lead.
The biggest issue for Gerrard going into the break will have been deciding whether to keep the anonymous Brandon Barker on for the second half after offering very little in what was an otherwise solid first half for Rangers.
Barker did emerge with his team-mates for the second 45 and Gerrard will have been looking for much more from the wide-man on his first Old Firm start.
Both sides again had plenty of early possession again as the play went from end-to-end, Ryan Kent coming closest for Rangers before an excellent sliding challenge from Ajer cleared the danger for a corner kick.
It was only temporarily cleared though as, nine minutes after the restart, Goldson grabbed his second of the game after some slick play combined by poor defending allowed the Ibrox stalwart to poke the ball home.
The second goal sparked changes from the Celtic bench as Lennon threw a striker on as they desperately looked for a way back into the game bfore Rangers made their first change of the afternoon soon afterwards, Ryan Jack replacing Barker.
Ryan Kent almost scored what would have been an excellent third goal with 65 minutes played when Barisic surged forward from deep, picking Kent out with a delightfully weighted cross but Ajer managed to block the Ibrox star’s volley.
With a 2-0 lead, it would have been easy for Rangers to take their foot off the gas and allow Celtic to come on to them but the Light Blues kept pushing forward, searching for a third goal to completely kill the game off.
There was another positive for Rangers in the final few minutes as Joe Aribo made his return from injury, replacing Arfield after the Canadian put in a tireless shift in midfield.
It was as comfortable an afternoon as Rangers have had in an Old Firm for a long, long time and Gerrard’s side look completely capable of finally ending Celtic’s dominance of the Scottish Premiership in recent seasons.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Kamara, Davis, Arfield, Barker, Kent, Morelos
Subs: McLaughlin, Bassey, Balogun, Jack, Jone, Hagi, Aribo, Itten, Defoe
Celtic: Barkas, Frimpong, Welsh, Ajer, Duffy, Laxalt, Brown, McGregor, Ntcham, Elyounoussi, Klimala
Subs: Bain, Taylor, Griffiths, Ajeti, Soro, Turnbull, Rogic, Henderson, Ralston