Some thoughts after watching today’s Celtic v Rangers match.
1. Overall, Rangers deserved the win. They responded to being a goal down and Celtic didn’t put Allan McGregor under nearly enough pressure.
2. Individual errors landed Celtic in trouble. Glenn Loovens should have been alert enough to deal with the ball coming off Lafferty at the equaliser, and a poor kick from the normally faultless Forster cost the home side dearly.
3. Rangers first goal was yet another example of why Loovens is Celtic’s weak link. Hooiveld is a better short-term option, and Rogne has potential…if he could stay fit for longer than 5 minutes.
4. Kenny Miller is at the peak of his powers and is now a complete striker. He’s become every bit as effective in front of goal as he is at working the channels and annoying defenders. Another well taken goal and he shouldn’t be far off 30 league goals for the season.
5. While Miller’s goals are vital to Rangers, Steven Davis is the main driving force in the side. A decent passer, he rarely loses possession and goes box-to-box for 90 minutes.
6. The referee had a decent game until the penalty decision. His positioning was all wrong for a start and it has to be asked if he even seen the ‘challenge’. Yet another big game in Scotland is overshadowed by poor officials. The SPL isn’t La Liga or the English Premier League, but it still deserves better referees than what we are seeing, week in, week out. We will never know if Celtic would have come back at 2-1 down, but they were very much in the game. Willie Collum’s error helped to put the match out of their reach.
7. The early loss of Shaun Maloney was a blow to Celtic. Maloney has recently been showing his best form since his Player of the Year season in 2005/06. He provides excellent support to the main striker, similar to Steven Naismith does for Rangers. Naismith caused plenty of problems, winning free-kicks and providing the pass that led to the second goal. Both now appear to be over their long-term injury problems.
8. Paddy McCourt was a disappointment. He arrived from the bench as expected, but failed to make an impact. He didn’t glide past defenders as he is able to and appeared inhibited by either a lack of confidence or the occasion.
9. Rangers will be delighted to have responded so well immediately after a Champions League tie. Assuming they are still in Europe after Christmas, they may find it difficult to produce similar performances as injuries and fatigue impact on the squad.
10. Rangers have made themselves clear favourites for the title and will hope to hammer home their advantage over the winter months when they don’t have the distraction of European games. Celtic meanwhile, have to move on. Losing to their rivals is a psychological blow but it’s only 3 points. They need to return to winning ways immediately, and avoid the collapse of last season. After the match, Neil Lennon rightly questioned the “mentality” of some of his players. While Lennon has instilled some spirit into the side and made them far more difficult to beat, perhaps there are still traces of the soft centre which existed under Tony Mowbray.