Clin­i­cal Celtic in sev­enth heaven with thrash­ing of Old Firm ri­vals Rangers

Celtic now just one win short of an his­toric sec­ond suc­ces­sive do­mes­tic tre­ble

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Soccer - Ewan Mur­ray at Celtic Park

Per­haps it is David Blaine Rangers re­quire rather than Steven Gerrard. Pre­sum­ably the for­mer Liver­pool cap­tain, whilst con­tem­plat­ing whether to be­gin his man­age­rial ca­reer at Ibrox, took in this lat­est Old Firm meet­ing from afar. The ev­i­dence pointed to a vast chasm be­tween the Glas­gow clubs. Celtic, who have now won seven ti­tles in suc­ces­sion, hu­mil­i­ated their arch ri­vals in even more bru­tal fash­ion than a fort­night ago, when four goals sep­a­rated the teams in the Scot­tish Cup semi-fi­nal.

Celtic rev­elled in prov­ing again which club is cur­rently Scot­land’s dom­i­nant force. His­tory tells us these sce­nar­ios are cycli­cal, but there is no sign at all of Rangers claw­ing their way back to a po­si­tion where they can go toe-to-toe with the cham­pi­ons. As job ad­verts go, this was an act of light-blue self-harm.

For the fore­see­able fu­ture, Rangers can only seek to es­tab­lish them­selves as Scot­land’s sec­ond force. This sea­son, that run­ner-up po­si­tion has de­vel­oped into a tight bat­tle be­tween them­selves, Aberdeen and Hiber­nian. Should Rangers – as is en­tirely con­ceiv­able – end the sea­son fourth, they will miss out on £560,000 worth of prize money. In the cur­rent con­text, that would be dis­as­trous, but it would be fit­ting for a club which has long since lost any sense of di­rec­tion. Two play­ers, in­clud­ing the club cap­tain, re­main sus­pended after a dress­ing-room row after that semi-fi­nal loss.

This Celtic dis­play per­son­i­fied the suc­cess of the Bren­dan Rodgers era. The hosts scrapped for loose balls, at­tacked with vigour and gave Rangers pre­cious few sights at goal. It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that 5-0 ac­tu­ally flat­tered Rangers, a point em­pha­sised by that be­ing the score­line with just 53 min­utes played. Gerrard, or any other po­ten­tial man­ager, will be en­ter­ing a gun­fight armed with a wa­ter pis­tol when it comes to at­tempt­ing to top­ple Rodgers and his team.

Graeme Murty, the Rangers in­terim man­ager, didn’t at­tend a post-match me­dia con­fer­ence. Prior to kick-off here, Murty ad­mit­ted he had been un­set­tled by the spec­u­la­tion over Gerrard. This 90 min­utes ac­tu­ally high­lighted the scale of the risk Rangers will take if they ap­point the Liver­pool academy coach. Rangers surely need an ex­pe­ri­enced man­ager who can or­gan­ise a team and im­me­di­ately com­mand re­spect. The sud­den avail­abil­ity of Chris Cole­man will in­evitably be of in­ter­est to those at Ibrox, given that the Welsh­man was in the frame to man­age Rangers after last year’s sack­ing of Pe­dro Caix­inha.

It would, none­the­less, be un­fair to fo­cus en­tirely on the woes of Rangers. Celtic were vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed to re­tain the ti­tle even be­fore a ball was kicked, but how they rel­ished con­fir­ma­tion in front of their great­est ad­ver­saries. Od­sonne Edouard, on loan from Paris St Ger­main, was out­stand­ing in at­tack.

Cal­lum McGre­gor and James For­rest sup­plied valu­able cre­ativ­ity from mid­field. Rodgers con­tin­ues to make suc­cess in Scot­land look so bliss­fully easy that those on the out­side may not ap­pre­ci­ate the scale of his work.

Amid a bril­liantly fe­ro­cious Celtic start, Edouard opened the scor­ing by turn­ing home a Kieran Tier­ney cross. The 20-year-old French­man dou­bled that lead after seiz­ing on lazy de­fend­ing by Rus­sell Martin, strid­ing for­ward and slam­ming home. Num­ber three ar­rived be­fore the in­ter­val, For­rest cut­ting in­field be­fore se­cur­ing his first goal against Rangers.

As Tom Rogic clipped the ball into an un­guarded net and McGre­gor found the tar­get from close range, Celtic’s thoughts turned to a record vic­tory. They were de­nied that through a com­bi­na­tion of Jack Al­nwick’s saves plus waste­ful­ness from Rogic, McGre­gor, and the sub­sti­tute Leigh Grif­fiths.

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