Rangers' title hopes effectively over after another Old Firm defeat
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Rangers' title hopes effectively over after another Old Firm defeat

Rangers’ hopes of retaining the Scottish Premiership this season look to be over after Gio van Bronckhorst’s side lost 2-1 to Celtic this afternoon and fell six points behind their bitter rivals in the league.

The Light Blues made four changes from their last outing, Leon Balogun, Ryan Jack, Joe Aribo and Kemar Roofe coming into the side as Fil Helander, James Sands and Scott Arfield dropped to the bench, while Alfredo Morelos missed out through injury.

It was Rangers who had the first chance of the afternoon, James Tavernier’s free-kick going just beyond Leon Balogun at the back post as the Gers put the pressure on early.

With Celtic struggling to get off their own box, Rangers took a stunning lead after only two minutes, Aaron Ramsey stroking home Ryan Kent’s pass and blowing the roof off Ibrox.

The Welshman’s finish showed fantastic composure, having initially started off the move before rounding it off with the goal.

Celtic had absolutely no answer as Rangers flooded forward, spraying passes around with ease before Kent came within inches of making it 2-0 by the sixth minute.

But then, moments later it was 1-1, Celtic midfielder Tom Rogic eventually beating McGregor and drawing the Parkhead side level and opening the game right up.

The chances for Rangers continued to come Ramsey forcing a smart save from Hart only for an offside flag to go up anyway, while the visitors’ defence were left to bail their side out a few times.

Ryan Jack was next to force a save from the Celtic keeper, Rangers’ press winning the ball back just outside the Celtic box before the midfielder’s effort losing most of its sting after taking a deflection.

While Rangers were on top, they could really have been doing with more from Joe Aribo; the Nigerian international struggling to get into the game on either side of the ball and floating around aimlessly for long spells of the opening 45.

Aribo had a great chance to make it 2-0, finding some great space to receive a fantastic ball over the top from Bassey but his touch let him down after getting goal-side of Greg Taylor and the Celtic defender recovered to clear the threat.

After a breathless opening 20 minutes, there was a scrappy five-minute spell in the middle of the opening half, both sides making mistakes in possession and gifting the other side the ball as they tried to assert their authority.

When Rangers were out of possession, the Light Blues’ press was well executed as they charged in packs and forced several errors from the Celtic defence as they continued to look for a second goal.

Just after the half-hour, Rangers felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Starfelt tripped Aribo off the ball – although it looked as though it would have been a very soft decision.

Rangers had to survive a scare with ten minutes until the break, Maeda breaking through the Gers defence but a fantastic save by McGregor followed by some excellent defending by Bassey and Goldson to deny Rogic averted the danger and kept the scores level.

John Lundstram would become the first player to go into the book after a heavy challenge in the middle of the pitch – prompting a furious response from the Rangers fans after Willie Collum allowed several similar challenges from Celtic players to go punished only by a free-kick.

Just as the opening 45 was drawing to a close, Celtic fired themselves into the lead, Carter-Vickers blasting home from close range after some poor defending from Rangers

Again, McGregor could probably have done better at the goal as his 38th Old Firm threatened to turn into one he’d quickly want to forget.

As the players made their way off at the break, Rangers had a huge amount to do if their title hopes were going to remain alive – but the game was far from over.

With the teams ready to get the second 45 underway, there was a delay as the Copland Road goalmouth was cleared after some clown threw a bottle.

Once the game did finally get restarted – with no changes from either side – there was a much tenser start than the opening 45.

Rangers would again have the bulk of possession, but there was nowhere near enough movement in the final third, leaving the Light Blues simply recycling the ball time and again.

The lack of any cutting edge was becoming ever more worrying as it was glaringly obvious that there needed to be some changes in the Rangers side to freshen things up.

Right on the stroke of the hour, Rangers felt they should have had a penalty, Carter-Vickers blocking a cross with his arm – Willie Collum seeing nothing in it and waving play on.

Every Rangers had been doing well in the first half was long gone and they were now second-best to everything as Celtic just sucked the life out of the game.

The Gers would make their first changes shortly afterwards, Fashion Sakala and Scott Arfield coming on for Ryan Jack and Aaron Ramsey – many inside Ibrox left scratching their head wondering why Aribo remained on.

It was a big gamble from van Bronckhorst as he tried to rescue Rangers’ title ambitions and it looked like it could pay immediate rewards as the Light Blues pinned Celtic in their own area and turned up the pressure.

However, too many times the final ball ended up being a cross just aimlessly thrown into the box in hope rather than expectation.

Fashion Sakala was denied a first Old Firm goal with 15 minutes left, Hart making a brilliant stop down to his left to keep out the Zambian’s effort as it looked like sneaking inside the post.

Celtic almost made it 3-1 through Liel Abada only for a brilliant stop from Allan McGregor to touch his effort over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

The chance Rangers had been waiting for, Connor Goldson the unlikely supplier as his cross found Roofe in the area but somehow the Jamaican international fired over the bar.

As their title ambitions ticked away, Rangers were throwing everything they could at Celtic, a slew of crosses failed to meet anyone in a blue shirt.

By the time the fourth official indicated there would be five additional minutes, Rangers fans were already streaming for the exits.

With six games left in the title race, Rangers now need favours from elsewhere if they are to retain the title – but you wouldn’t be surprised if this side were to drop more points between now and the end of the season.

Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Bassey, Lundstram, Jack, Ramsey, Aribo, Kent, Roofe.
Subs: McLaughlin, Helander, Barisic, Davis, Kamara, Sands, Arfield, Amad, Fashion Jr.

Celtic: Hart, Taylor, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Juranovic, McGregor, Rogic, Hatate, Jota, Maeda, Giakoumakis
Subs: Bain, Bitton, Abada, Turnbull, McCarthy, Johnstone, Ideguchi, O’Riley, Ralston

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