After another intense Old Firm Derby, Rangers turn on the charm with 2-0 win over eternal rivals Celtic.
It took less than two minutes for the Gers to take the lead after skipper James Tavernier curled a scintillating free-kick past a rooted Scott Bain.
Celtic were unusually off-pace this afternoon, and Steven Gerrard’s side soon took advantage of that shortly after the interval, with Scott Arfield capitalising on Jermain Defoe’s delectable dummy, before firing past Bain to make it 2-0 in the 63rd minute.
And that was how it finished with Celtic not offering much in return. This was not an Old Firm classic for the ages, but who were the winners and losers from the latest instalment of this famous rivalry?
Winner: James Tavernier
The Bradford-born right-back netted his 17th goal of the campaign for Rangers this afternoon after wrapping his foot around a delightful free-kick, sending the ball beyond Bain’s reach and breaking the deadlock in the opening stages.
The early strike now means Tavernier has netted 14 Scottish Premiership goals this term, an incredible feat for a full-back; granted he has scored a lion’s share of those goals from spot kicks, but that should certainly not detract from what has been an exceptional return in front of goal for a defender.
But it’s not just an eye for goal that Tavernier boasts as part of his repertoire, as the 27-year-old has also provided 20 assists this season, meaning he has been directly involved in 37 goals across 57 matches in all competitions.
It will, therefore, come as no surprise that Tavernier has been linked with a move back to the Premier League this summer – having initially failed to make the grade at Newcastle – with the likes of Southampton and Burnley reportedly keen on his services.
Well, based on the performances he has produced this season in Glasgow, the former Magpie could prove an astute signing for some of the English top-flight’s mid-table clubs.
Loser: Neil Lennon
Prior to this afternoon, Celtic had not trailed in any domestic match since the turn of the year, but it took Rangers just under two minutes to shatter that statistic and break down the Bhoys’ usually resilient defence.
With a number of notable defensive absentees for Lennon, the interim coach shuffled the pack and deployed a makeshift XI and formation, but it backfired for the Northern Irishman as Rangers drew first blood and raced into an early lead.
The recently confirmed Scottish champions were without a number of key names with the likes of Kieran Tierney and Emilio Izaguirre unable to make the matchday squad, leading to a back-three with Jonny Hayes and Mikey Johnston operating as auxiliary wing-backs.
And with the Scottish Cup final just under a fortnight away, there were suggestions before kick-off that Lennon rested star full-back Tierney, but the 47-year-old brushed those claims under the carpet, though Celtic could certainly have done with Tierney in the side this afternoon with Celtic cumbersome and error-prone.
Winner: Glen Kamara
Kamara ran a masterclass in Glasgow this afternoon, wowing the Ibrox crowd with his dazzling feet and imagination, particularly for Rangers’ second after he pirouetted and effortlessly shimmied passed Brown, twice, before his quick pass into Defoe’s path was intelligently dummied for Arfield to double the host’s advantage.
But it wasn’t just his influential role for the second goal that caught the attention of the 50,000 spectators, as the all-purpose Finland-born midfielder led by example in the middle of the park.
He relished the occasion and more than showcased his worth, orbiting the middle of the park while gracefully dispersing passes along the way. The 23-year-old was signed from Dundee in January, and he has already vindicated his modest price tag of £50,000.
Released from Arsenal in 2017, Kamara looked the real deal this afternoon, and this one may yet come back to haunt the Gunners.
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Loser: Scott Brown
Brown usually thrives in this match, he has a penchant for taking his game to new levels on the big occasion, but the Old Firm encounter this afternoon largely bypassed him – as did most of the Rangers midfielders.
Granted, the entire Celtic team didn’t look particularly motivated for this encounter, with Lennon’s side practically faltering the minute Tavernier’s shot rattled the back of the net after just 111 seconds of play.
However, Brown, donning the captain’s armband this afternoon failed to truly rally the troops and kick his side into gear, as Rangers ran amok for large spells of the match.
Celtic clinched their eighth consecutive league title last week so there was perhaps some complacency in their game, but that will come as no consolation to the travelling fans who saw their bitter rivals clinch back-to-back home league wins over them for the first time since 2012 – breaking their seven-year hoodoo on home turf.
Winner: Scott Brown
The seasoned Celtic skipper didn’t have the most influential of matches through the middle of the park, but once again the habitual nark got under the skin of his eternal adversaries, drawing a blatant elbow to the face from defender Jon Flanagan.
One would have thought the Gers would have learnt a lesson from the previous encounter, which saw Brown get the better of Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent, who were both sent off for retaliating aggressively towards the Celtic midfielder – but no, Flanagan decided to follow suit and take aim at his compatriot.
Jon Flanagan everyone pic.twitter.com/3OoUMqt2YE
— Angus (@_hxlmes) May 12, 2019
Fortunately for the former Liverpool defender, referee Kevin Clancy deemed Flanagan’s flailing arm to only be worthy of a yellow card, refusing to brandish a straight red, presumably to try and keep some order in this fairly subdued Old Firm Derby.
Before the match, Lennon declared Rangers have a “huge disciplinary problem” and he may very well reiterate his point after the match as Flanagan was very fortunate to remain on the pitch.
Loser: Oliver Burke
The West Bromwich Albion loanee was poor this afternoon, often running down blind alleys and failing to really stamp his authority on the match, which has subsequently prompted cries from some Celtic fans to terminate his temporary stint in Glasgow.
Well, with one match remaining in the Scottish Premiership that is highly unlikely, but it does beg the question was has happened to the once promising Nottingham Forest youngster, a player who once earned a move to RB Leipzig in 2016?
Even when things didn’t quite work out at the Red Bull Arena, many would have been expecting him to rediscover his spark in England when he signed for the Baggies last season, but again he sat on the periphery of first-team action and failed to help keep the West Midlands club in the Premier League.
His next move will prove decisive in his career, but based on his performance this afternoon, Celtic fans may not want him back next campaign.