Re­ju­ve­nated Rangers reap re­ward for dom­i­nat­ing ri­vals

Old Firm de­feat sig­nals the end for Ronny Deila at Celtic as Lad­brokes Cham­pi­onship win­ners shine un­der War­bur­ton


IF there was one damp­ener on a joy­ous day for Rangers sup­port­ers, it was that this vic­tory will spell the end for Ronny Deila as Celtic man­ager.

If there was one thing, mean­while, to give dis­con­so­late Celtic fans hope for the fu­ture, it was that there will be a new man charge at Park­head for the start of next sea­son.

The Celtic board have stub­bornly kept faith with Deila in re­cent months de­spite a grow­ing dis­con­tent­ment among their fol­low­ers in the hope that he would come good.

This de­feat to Rangers in the Wil­liam Hill Scot­tish Cup semi-fi­nal sug­gested their ad­mirable will­ing­ness to back their man was mis­placed.

With a Rangers side who are fly­ing un­der Mark War­bur­ton set to join them in the Premier­ship in the 2016-17 cam­paign, they will now have no choice but to make a change.

Celtic lost 5-4 on penal­ties af­ter the game had fin­ished 2-2 af­ter 120 min­utes when Tom Rogic blasted his ef­fort high over the cross­bar. But the score­line didn’t tell the full story of the en­counter. With Kenny Miller then Bar­rie McKay twice giv­ing Rangers the lead, Celtic were al­ways play­ing catch-up. A vic­tory would have flat­tered them.

You could ar­gue that Deila’s side had showed great fight­ing spirit to level, first through Erik Svi­atchenko early in the sec­ond half then through Rogic in the sec­ond pe­riod of ex­tra-time.

You could also sug­gest they en­joyed no luck. Pa­trick Roberts, the on-loan £12 mil­lion Manch­ester City winger who was one of their best per­form­ers, would have or­di­nar­ily buried the sort of glar­ing chance which he passed up in 33 min­utes as an empty net beck­oned. His miss was Van Vossen-es­que.

The throw-in that led to the sec­ond Rangers goal – which the as­sis­tant ref­eree Alan Mul­vanny awarded to Celtic only for the match of­fi­cial Craig Thom­son to then give to Rangers – was also con­tentious. But it was some dis­tance from goal.

In truth, Celtic were out­classed by a side put to­gether for a frac­tion of the price for swathes of the game. At no point dur­ing pro­ceed­ings did they look in con­trol. Their ri­vals pro­duced su­pe­rior foot­ball.

War­bur­ton had in­sisted that Rangers would play their nat­u­ral at­tack­ing game and he re­mained true to his word. Both of his full-backs, James Tav­ernier and Lee Wal­lace, got up­field fre­quently. Their play was a de­light to watch at times. Ev­ery one of their play­ers turned up and per­formed. From the much­ma­ligned Rob Kier­nan at cen­tre-half to the in­dus­tri­ous Andy Hal­l­i­day in mid­field to the ev­er­green Miller up front, they all, to a man, con­trib­uted.

The sub­sti­tu­tions high­lighted the gulf that, off the field at least, ex­ists be­tween th­ese teams just now. Celtic brought on Cal­lum McGre­gor, Svi­atchenko, a Dan­ish in­ter­na­tion­al­ist and Rogic, who plays for Aus­tralia. Stu­art Arm­strong, Kris Com­mons and Colin Kazim-Richards re­mained on the bench.

Rangers could only call on Nicky Clark, Nicky Law and Ge­dion Ze­lalem. No mat­ter. They dom­i­nated their topflight op­po­nents, in the first half in par­tic­u­lar, and were wor­thy win­ners.

Celtic fans had many valid ques­tions as they trudged de­ject­edly out of the sta­dium as their coun­ter­parts re­joiced. What does Kris Com­mons have to do to get a game? He is an ex­pe­ri­enced in­di­vid­ual with a proven big game pedi­gree. So why did he re­main on the bench?

Once again, Deila put his faith in Ste­fan Jo­hansen, who failed to make a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact, be­hind lone striker Leigh Grif­fiths. That has fre­quently been the case this sea­son. That re­liance on his coun­try­man has con­trib­uted greatly to his down­fall.

Rogic should have fea­tured from kick-off. He looked ca­pa­ble to engi­neer­ing an open­ing or scor­ing him­self af­ter tak­ing to the field and took his goal, af­ter some im­pres­sive play and a clever cut back by Kieran Tier­ney, well.

Else­where, what was Dedryck Boy­ata do­ing in the line-up? The Bel­gian cen­tre­half had missed train­ing at Len­nox­town last week and strug­gled from the first whis­tle. His side fared far bet­ter when he was re­placed by Svi­atchenko.

Why, too, did an ex­pe­ri­enced Scott Brown and Nir Bit­ton toil? They had no an­swer to the slick pass­ing, con­stant move­ment and high work rate of Do­minic Ball, Hal­l­i­day and Ja­son Holt in the mid­dle of the park.

The 4-2-3-1 for­ma­tion which Deila, with the rare ex­cep­tion, fields also irked many Celtic fans. It was hard to see yes­ter­day what the ben­e­fits of it were once again yes­ter­day.

Miller, at the grand old age of 36, opened the scor­ing for Rangers in the 16th minute af­ter Brown di­verted a Hal­l­i­day pass into his path in the Celtic penalty area. His per­fectly-ex­e­cuted first-time shot beat Craig Gor­don and found the bot­tom left cor­ner.

Rangers bossed play there­after and were un­for­tu­nate not to build on that lead. But Celtic drew level af­ter mak­ing a rous­ing start to the sec­ond half. Svi­atchenko rose well and headed home a Roberts cor­ner in the 50th minute.

That led to a ten­ta­tive end to reg­u­la­tion time which came to an end when Grif­fiths had a long-range free-kick pushed on to the cross­bar by goal­keeper Wes Foder­ing­ham.

McKay, who was ex­cep­tional through­out the game and the right­ful re­cip­i­ent of the man-of-the-match award, capped his out­stand­ing in­di­vid­ual dis­play with a drive from 20 yards out five min­utes into ex­tra-time.

Rogic took the game be­tween the fierce city ri­vals to penal­ties for the first time in a ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion. In a cruel fin­ish, he was the man who scooped his spot kick over the cross­bar.

It all whet­ted the ap­petite for four Old Firm games next sea­son. Deila, though, will not be around for them.

NOT THIS TIME: Tom Rogic comes close for Celtic but the day be­longed to the blue half of Glas­gow . . .

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