I am of course talking about 'Ref-Gate' as BBC Scotland reported last Thursday that Celtic were considering contacting the SFA to express their concern and frustration over refereeing decisions that had gone against them already this season. The SFA had a few choice words to say over the whole affair, dare I put it down as ‘green paranoia’ rearing its ugly head once again?
Something that was a hot topic only a few weeks ago amongst sports hacks and football fans across Scotland.
As I’ve discussed on this blog previously it’s been there for years…but needless to say I agree with manager Walter Smith’s post match comments with regards to the unfair pressure that was put on Referee Dougie MacDonald last week, but will this ‘source’ please reveal their identity?
I doubt it very much, but the whole affair did hinder Celtic even before a ball was kicked.
So to Sunday’s game...
Ranger’s pretty much had a full strength starting eleven which has been a bit of a rarity for the Ibrox management team this season where as Celtic had made enforced changes due to a recent spate of injuries particularly involving their defenders.
Much has been made of Celtic’s central defensive problems this season an area where Rangers were no doubt looking to expose fully on Sunday but considering the inexperience of Josh Thompson and Thomas Rogne (later replaced by Darren O’Dea due to a first half injury) and their combined age still falling a few years short of just one half of Rangers central defence namely Captain Davie Weir, they didn’t do too badly at all.
It was Celtic who had the better of the first half with Rangers quite content to hit back on the counter attack. The first of the match highlights coming from on loan Fulham Striker Diomansy Kamara (a joy to watch, silky ball control coupled with some fine runs) who claimed for a penalty on 14 minutes after he thought he had been fouled inside the Rangers penalty box by Madjid Bougherra, however referee Dougie MacDonald didn’t agree. Having seen replays of the said incident I genuinely believe there was nothing in Majid’s challenge, pretty 50/50 I thought.
The Ibrox side had their own first half injury victim too on 26 minutes, Lee McCullough clashed with team-mate Kevin Thomson who looked to have clipped the back of his heel which sadly rules McCullough out of Wednesday night’s Scotland Vs Czech Republic clash at Hampden. Mo Edu came on as McCullough’s replacement and the American thought he had given Rangers the lead straight away as his shot from just inside the Celtic penalty area passed by Celtic keeper Artur Boruc into the right hand side of the goal but was rightly disallowed as Kenny Miller had handballed prior to the ball falling to Edu.
A few minutes later Kris Boyd (who didn’t have much service supplied to himself in the match) fed a super ball from his own half to Kenny Miller who executed his shot from just inside the Celtic penalty area only to be denied by a fine stop from Artur Boruc.
At the other end Celtic loan signing Robbie Keane was desperate to get his name on the score sheet but his 35th minute shot from 18 yards was saved by Rangers keeper Allan McGregor, both McGregor and Boruc had fine displays between the sticks.
Robbie Keane sees his shot saved by Allan McGregor.
Just before halftime Marc-Antoine Fortune created a chance out of nothing foiling the Rangers defence in the process with some nifty ball control but he pulled his shot wide of the goal.
Rangers pressed ahead in the second half after Walter Smiths halftime team talk; full-back Steven Whittaker played the ball in to Kris Boyd's feet inside a packed Celtic penalty box but Tic defender Darren O'Dea coming to his sides rescue with a saving tackle before the Rangers no#9 had the chance to fire his shot away. Two further chances came from Steven Davis as Rangers upped the pressure but Hoops keeper Artur Boruc was on hand making a good double save.
The sending off of Celtic Captain Scot Brown came on 66 minutes after Brown and Kyle Lafferty tussled together which was really just a bit of argy-bargy which is typical of such a derby match however it was Brown’s intended headbutt which convinced referee Dougie MacDonald that Brown should be charged with violent conduct. Take a look for yourselves; I don’t see much wrong with the ref’s decision on this one.
Celtic captain Scott Brown was sent off for his intended headbutting of Kyle Lafferty.
Hardy tackles were a plenty throughout the 90 minutes from both sides including these two which were the pick of the bunch for me; late on in the game Kris Boyd takes a sore one in the crown jewels courtesy of Celtic’s Landry N'Guemo and Kevin Thomson sees an opportunity and takes it against Celtic striker Diomansy Kamara. The final card count wasn’t actually too bad it you take it all into consideration.
Rangers looked to press their one man advantage and had further chances through Maurice Edu but his attempt flew over goal after receiving a beautiful cross from defender Sasa Papac who was himself denied by Artur Boruc with seconds remaining. The resulting corner kick from Boruc’s save from Papac finally helped Rangers press ahead with their numerical advantage.
Kevin Thomson’s out swinging corner kick was met by Madjid Bougherra only for his shot to be saved by Boruc, Kris Boyd pounced for the rebound his effort was blocked by the Celtic defence but Maurice Edu pounced to hit home the winner in the final minute of stoppage time to the sheer delight of the home fans.
Maurice Edu hits home the injury time winner.
Rangers players and fans go wild after Edu found the back of the net.
Rangers 1 Celtic 0.
Rangers players continue their celebrations at Ibrox.
I would always urge caution as would the dignified Walter Smith with regards to the title being won already until the math says it so but Rangers do seem to have one hand firmly placed on SPL Trophy after yesterdays win which see’s the Champions go 10points clear of Celtic with a game in hand.
The Rangers players are also not getting carried away just yet;
Speaking to Sky Sports after the match this is what Kenny Miller had to say:
"We've fought until the end and taken a huge step now to retaining the title,"
"With 10 men we thought we could get a winner but you've got to fight until the 93rd or 94th minute. It's a great time to score - it's always going to be hard to come back after that.''
With regards to the title race, Miller said: "It's in our hands and has been for long time. Today was an opportunity for them to beat us and pull the gap back to four points but we've increased the lead and we're delighted.''
And matchwinner Edu agreed that the victory represented a big step in the title race. He said:
"We thought it would be hard and it was a big game for us but there are still lot of games to go. We're just taking one game at a time. It's been great to get some games under my belt and getting a goal will spur me on to find top form.''
So with a CIS Cup final later this month, a Scottish Cup quarter final to look forward too and 10 points ahead in the SPL with a game in hand the treble is still very much on the cards for Rangers.
I would therefore have to agree with the sentiments of Celtic Manager Tony Mowbray…
It's Rangers' title to lose now...
On a sour note very disappointed with Celtic’s away support at Ibrox on Sunday who disrupted the minutes silence before kick off in memory of former Gers goalkeeper Gerry Neef who was part of the European Cup Winners' Cup Final squad in Barcelona 1972.
However both sets of fans were 'at it' so blame should be shared.
Gerry Neef had been ill for some time and passed away last Tuesday at the age of 63; our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.
Former Rangers goalkeeper Gerry Neef who passed away last week.
Considering the history between the Glasgow giants perhaps a minute’s applause would have made better sense.
RIP Gerry Neef.
Dated 1st March 2010.
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Saturday, 6 March 2010
Clydesdale Bank Premier League
Rangers v St Mirren, kick-off 15:00
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Clydesdale Bank Premier League
Kilmarnock v Rangers, kick-off 19:45
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SPL Team of the Week - February 28th 2010.
Neil McDougall picks out the top performers from the weekend's action in Scotland.