Some thoughts on the 2-2 draw between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox.
1. An enthralling contest – Rangers could have been two goals ahead within four minutes, yet were hanging on by the end. Had Steven Davis had scored instead of hitting the bar, things could have been very different.
2. Celtic will be the happier of the two sides. They controlled the match, enjoying a ridiculous amount of possession, and bounced back from the early setback of going a goal behind. Celtic are growing in confidence and are a very different proposition from the team who lost the first Old Firm game of the season.
3. A stunning opening goal from Jamie Ness – he could have perhaps been closed down sooner but nothing should take away from the quality of the strike.
4. Nikica Jelavic made an effective contribution, holding up the ball and bringing others into the game. However, is he capable of delivering the goals that will fire Rangers to the title?
5. El Hadji Diouf showed some nice touches and seemed to relish his ‘contest’ with Scott Brown. He doesn’t do himself any favours though, with his obstruction of Fraser Forster’s kick-out completely unnecessary.
6. Celtic’s midfield were excellent. Kris Commons was again impressive before being replaced – Paddy McCourt has more natural ability but could learn a thing or two from Commons about positioning and linking up with team-mates. Beram Kayal is a star in the making and the real Scott Brown is now standing up, even if he was wrong to taunt Diouf after scoring.
7. Forster has been a consistent performer in the Celtic goal this season, yet hasn’t enjoyed matches against Rangers. Replays of the penalty incident were inconclusive, but Forster and his colleagues seemed to accept the decision, and the red card that followed, with little fuss.
8. Media ‘experts’ claimed on radio before kick-off that Neil Lennon had got his team selection wrong, by not partnering Gary Hooper with Anthony Stokes. However, Lennon had the last laugh, providing further evidence of his development as a coach since the start of the season. Any questions regarding Celtic’s ability to handle the big occasion have also been answered.
9. Rangers looked tired and appeared happy to play out the closing stages, but the last thing they needed was a replay, given their already busy schedule. Their squad will be tested to the limit over the remainder of the season and recent additions Diouf and Healy will need to play their part if Rangers are to defend their title.
10. Celtic will be clear favourites for the replay and are beginning to look like frontrunners for the title. Within their squad they have strength in depth that their great rivals simply cannot match, as well as the best defensive record in the SPL and two prolific strikers in Hooper and Stokes. No trophies were won or lost at Ibrox, but the match could be an indication that the balance of power is shifting back towards the east end of Glasgow.