Two down after nine minutes... but Falkirk hit back to stun Rangers with late winner
RONNY DEILA watched the Rangers team his Celtic side will take on in the Scottish Cup semi-final next month squander an early two-goal lead and slump to their third Ladbrokes Championship defeat of the season.
Deila had admitted that he would attempt to watch the Ibrox club in person after the draw was made and he took advantage of their Friday evening match against their nearest challengers Falkirk to do exactly that.
The Norwegian’s presence in the main stand at the Falkirk Stadium didn’t go unnoticed by the large travelling support. After their side had gone two goals in front after just nine minutes he was treated to a rendition of “you’re only here to see the Rangers”.
However, the 40-year-old, who was accompanied by his assistant John Collins, will have left the ground optimistic that his side can triumph in the second Old Firm game of his reign after witnessing the second-tier leaders’ extraordinary late collapse.
Goals from Kenny Miller and Barrie McKay in the space of three minutes early in the game gave Mark Warburton’s men what appeared to be a comfortable advantage. Jason Holt, Billy King, Lee Wallace and Miller again could all have built on that lead if they had taken decent chances.
Tavernier had the ball in the net in the fourth minute following a tidy interchange between Jason Holt and Kenny Miller on the edge of the Falkirk penalty box. However, the assistant referee ruled his effort offside.
The right-back set up the first goal just three minutes later. He burst into the opposition area and squared to Miller who was lurking in the six-yard box and had the simplest of tasks to stroke the ball into an inviting net. It was his 16th goal of the 2015/16 campaign. Scorer turned provider in the ninth minute. The striker released his captain Lee Wallace down the left wing with an exquisite pass which successfully eluded the outstretched Falkirk defender Aaron Muirhead.
Wallace supplied Barrie McKay and the winger had, as was the case with his teammate just two minutes earlier, no difficulty slotting past Danny Rogers.
Wes Foderingham in the Rangers goal had to save long-range shots from Craig Sibbald and Will Vaulks in the first half and did well to deny Luke Leahy, Vaulks and Myles Hippolyte in the second as the home team fought hard to claw their way back into the game.
Peter Houston, the Falkirk manager, took off Lee Miller and replaced him with Hippolyte early in the second half and the change made a definite difference for the home team. When Blair Alston netted in the 72nd minute it was very much with the run of play.
The ball fell to Alston on the edge of the Rangers box and he volleyed into the top left corner with the outside of his right foot. Hippolyte levelled the match six minutes later with a strike that was celebrated acrobatically by the substitute.
Bob McHugh replaced John Baird with 10 minutes of the game remaining and he popped up in the second minute of injury-time to net a late and richly deserved winner for the home team.
Falkirk Rogers, Leahy, Muirhead, McCracken, Vaulks, Taiwo, Alston, Baird (McHugh, 80), Sibbald (O’Hara, 75), Miller (Hippolyte, 50), Watson Subs: Mehmet, Smith, McCann, Gallacher. Booked Hippolyte, Baird Rangers Foderingham, Tavernier, Kiernan, Wallace, Ball, Milller (Clark, 69), Halliday, King (O’Halloran 69), McKay (Forrester, 60), Holt, Wilson Subs: Bell, Law, Shiels Referee Kevin Clancy
INTERESTED SPECTATORS: Celtic manager Ronny Deila, right, and John Collins last night