Old Firm Overview

6 Feb

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.

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2 Responses to “Old Firm Overview”

  1. Alan February 9, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Hi FFF,

    Some very good and valid points above. I thought Rangers blew a great opportunity when Celtic were reduced to 10 men. Walter didn’t seem to change the defensive tactic even with a one man advantage and Celtic were still allowed the lions share of possession with a man down. Celtic seem to pass and retain the ball better judging by the past two games and Rangers will have it all to do at Parkhead.

    Diouf for all the controversy could be an inspired signing. I disagree with the impeding of the kick by Forster. He did not raise his leg or get in the way of the kick out. He seemed to be just trying to apply some mental pressure by being in the near vicinity of a seemingly nervous goalkeeper.

    I think that Rangers need to step up their game if they are to have any chance of winning the title. Too many of our players haven’t been hitting the form of last season of late. Bougherra and Weir do not seem to inspire the same defensive aura of ‘invincibility’ of previous seasons. Davis who can be a huge creative force has not stamped his authority often enough in the past month or two.

    Although there are a few plus points to take from recent games. Ness’s emergence, he seems to have great vision and range of passing. Jelavic coming back and although not at full fitness looks to be a cut above most of the SPL standard players. Finally Diouf’s signing also provides more depth and quality where Rangers were lacking. Hopefully his temperament holds for the remainder of the season.

    That said Celtic seem to be shifting up a gear and are looking impressive. The next month will be pivotal for both Smith and Lennon in this power struggle.

  2. footballfutbolfitba February 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    Alan, thanks for your comment. I will try to respond to all the points you’ve raised.

    Agree that Rangers were strangely subdued, even with the extra man. I thought they looked tired and perhaps their relatively smaller squad is starting to struggle.

    Looking beyond his personality (which sometimes isn’t easy), then yeah Diouf is a very capable player. He and Naismith will need to link the midfield to Jelavic, who, as you rightly say, is still not fully fit. Do you think he will be a regular scorer or more likely to provide assists as often as goals? I’m a big fan of Davis – intelligent player who copes well with the Scottish game – that’s a compliment, not an insult.

    As for Diouf obstructing Forster, it wasn’t a big deal, just something that annoys me – I’d rather see the player get in position for the ball coming out.

    I think there is some confidence (even a bit of a swagger) in the Celtic side that wasn’t there before Christmas. I think they have the slight edge in the title race but are still more than capable of the odd shocker e.g Hamilton away. The upcoming Old Firm games at Celtic Park will also be interesting – Neil Lennon seems to have sussed out how to approach a game at Ibrox, can he do it at home?

    Cheers

    p.s I try to put on a quick post like this after each OF game – would be happy to hear your thoughts after the next one.

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