GLASGOW, United Kingdom, Dec 29 – Steven Gerrard emerged victorious in the Old Firm clash with his former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers as Rangers deservedly beat champions and bitter rivals Celtic 1-0 on Saturday.
It was Rodgers first experience of defeat in 13 meetings with Rangers and puts Gerrard’s side level on points with Celtic, though the latter stay top courtesy of a better goal difference. Celtic also have a game in hand.
Ryan Jack’s deflected goal on the half-hour mark proved the difference in a match that Rangers largely dominated against a strangely out-of-sorts Celtic.
The visitors were only supported by 750 of their fans as Rangers had slashed their usual ticket allowance of 7,000.
A delighted Gerrard, whose decision to take the job is bearing fruit thusfar despite many questioning the wisdom of his choice, said the victory was for the fans who had endured years of frustration.
“The players to a man were outstanding, all over the pitch,” Gerrard told Sky Sports.
“We were better to a man, we were the better team, we could have won it more comfortably.
“Their keeper made some outstanding saves and we hit the woodwork.
“We played with courage, we played with belief, we were brave.”
Rodgers took defeat on the chin.
“I thought the best team won,” Rodgers told Sky Sports.
“Rangers played well. We had a lot of unforced mistakes and didn’t create as much as we would like so we’ve got no excuse.”
Sustained early home pressure resulted in Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon saving his side twice in quick succession, first from Daniel Candeias and then brilliantly tipping away Connor Goldson’s point blank header.
From the ensuing corner, Brown was fortunate his back header rattled the post and rebounded to safety.
The hosts deservedly took the lead after a fine piece of skill down the left wing by Ryan Kent teed up Jack.
He sidefooted the ball straight at Brown, who snapped his ankles together just too late, succeeding only in deflecting the ball inside the near post.
Gordon came to Celtic’s rescue again early in the second-half as he got down smartly to deny the impressive Kent.
Belgian centre-back Dedrick Boyata had a game to forget, not least when he lost possession to Kent before Gordon saved. The defender redeemed himself by clearing Scott Arfield’s shot off the line.
Celtic did have the ball in the net in the 66th minute through Callum McGregor, only for the left-back to be ruled offside.
Rangers withstood a late assault and the hosts’ stout-hearted spirit was reflected by Andy Halliday taking a goal-bound shot by Olivier Ntcham full in the groin to keep his side ahead.
The normally full-blooded affair had begun on a sombre and respecful note earlier on Saturday, with directors from Rangers and Celtic laying wreaths to the 66 people who lost their lives in the Ibrox Disaster on January 2, 1971. The crush on an exit stairway at the Rangers ground also injured 200.