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
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.