Midfield boss happy to graft for the cause
Halliday’s performance epitomised Rangers’ spirit – Celtic could have done with someone like him . . .
WHEN Andy Halliday looks back on this match, and he is bound to relive it a fair few times, the Rangers midfielder will wonder how on Earth he managed to produce a performance of such grit, intelligence and all-round brilliance for 120 minutes.
By the end, the tank wasn’t so much empty as absent altogether. Take a bow, sir. That is how a supporter is supposed to play in these matches.
Halliday is a Rangers fan, but he did not crash into tackles on Celtic players just to get a cheer. He bossed that midfield and made Scott Brown, who did just that last year, look average at best. He passed the ball all day, made interceptions, read the play, set up his team’s first goal and led by example. Many followed him.
The winner of this fixture, and we can go back to black-and-white days here, has to be strong in the middle of the park. They need at least one player in there who can dominate, bring teammates into play and Halliday did this and a lot more. He and his fellow supporters will hate the unavoidable comparison, but this is what Neil Lennon used to do in this fixture.
There was a moment when Halliday’s face took the full force of a shot. It grounded him, but he shook off the effects, got back to defend a corner and, next thing, he was making a superbly timed tackle on Charlie Mulgrew inside the box.
Nobody wearing green and white came close to his attitude and that is simply not good enough
If Halliday was a hero for Rangers, so, too, were just about all his teammates with the excellent Barrie McKay, Dominic Ball, Rob Kiernan deserving of special praise. In truth, many, many more names could be mentioned.
As for the side top of the Premiership; it has to be said that there should be a fleet of taxis sitting outside of Celtic Park this morning because, if those particular Rangers players epitomised what is required in a derby, they also highlighted what the opposition did not have.
Too many are just not up to it. If you can’t handle playing Rangers, who ended the game with reserve players and Championship stalwarts throughout their team, then you shouldn’t be at Celtic.
Gary Mackay-Steven clearly did not want to be there. He looked like a wee boy lost, although the fact he was an empty shirt, along with Stefan Johansen and the woeful Dedryck Boyata, would have come as no surprise to any Celtic fan who had actually watched their team this season. Does Ronny Deila actually take in what is going on?
Rangers won the majority of the battles in midfield. The centre halves, Kiernan and Danny Wilson are hardly Gough and Butcher, but they managed Leigh Griffiths, who looked so lonely for long periods.
Patrick Roberts did give Lee Wallace a torrid time, but the Rangers captain kept going and, as the encounter progressed, the winger became less influential.
Now, you could claim Roberts was the villain of the piece with that miss, which will live with him and a few thousand others for some time. However, at least he went looking for the ball and tried to create things. He actually had a decent match.
Kieran Tierney is 18 and was the one Celt who played his normal game. There are a few others who should be ashamed by how a wean showed them what it was all about.
Mackay-Steven hid, Johansen didn’t seem to know what his role was, Brown struggled, Nir Bitton was wasteful while Boyata, who has been a poor signing, got caught the wrong side of Kenny Miller at the first goal.
He was taken off in the first half and, while Celtic may argue that he was injured, but he didn’t look to be struggling as he ran down the tunnel with a haunted look on his face. The physio had appeared at the side of Deila just before he was replaced by Erik Sviatchenko, who should have started, as if to indicate the centre half had a problem.
The problem appeared to be that he had frozen. Not one Rangers player froze. In fact, most were inspired by the occasion.
McKay was a revelation. His work rate was exceptional, his goal in extra time one for the ages. It came from a throw-in that should have gone to Celtic, but the danger should have been dealt with.
Too often, though, the Celtic defensive line was too deep and the Rangers winger sent an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
You could pore over every little detail of this match for hours, looking at it from many different ways and still come to same conclusion.
Rangers wanted it more and that is why they deserved to win.
GRIT: Rangers’ Andy Halliday, who had a superb game at Hampden yesterday, keeps tabs on Tom Rogic