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CELTIC 0 RANGERS 2: HOOPS FIRE BLANKS IN DIRE DISPLAY

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CELTIC 0 RANGERS 2

NO invention. No conviction. No motivation. No idea.

No shots on target.

That sums up a truly appalling performance from the champions as they slumped four points behind Steven Gerrard’s side at Parkhead this afternoon.

It was hard to believe the team could not muster a single, solitary effort on target to bring Allan McGregor into action. This was as bad as it gets in this encounter.

The nearest the Hoops came to worrying the veteran keeper was in the 81st minute when substitute Leigh Griffiths slipped a challenge from McGregor as he raced onto a pass from Kristoffer Ajer. The striker tried to cut the ball back for Albian Ajeti, but the shotstopper got back in time to flop on the ball.

And that was his only moment of anxiety against a Celtic team that looked far removed from a club bidding for a historic tenth successive title.

ON THE RUN…Leigh Griffiths prepares to take on Filip Helander.

OFF TARGET…Allan McGregor holds onto Griffiths’ cut-back with Albian Ajeti watching.

Let’s not use the absence of Odsonne Edouard or Ryan Christie for coronavirus reasons or James Forrest or Christopher Jullien who are injured as any sort of excuse. That would be clutching at straws.

Frankly and bluntly, this was NOT acceptable. Nowhere near it.

There was much for Neil Lennon to ponder at the interval as the players trooped in a goal adrift after a fairly uninspiring, insipid first 45 minutes.

The Hoops boss could not have been anywhere near satisfied with a fumbling performance that ensured McGregor was not required to get his knees dirty.

Mohamed Elyounoussi was given the perfect opportunity to wipe out Connor Goldson’s goal in the 15th minute when he was presented with an ideal opportunity after the Ibrox defender failed to deal with a straightforward free-kick from Shane Duffy.

The ball broke to the Norwegian international with only the keeper to beat, but he woefully and waywardly lifted the ball well off target. It was an astonishing miss when it looked impossible not to at least hit the target.

HOLD YOUR BREATH…Mohamed Elyounoussi prepares to lob the ball goalwards.

UP IN THE AIR…the ball flies waywardly off target with Allan McGregor and Co relieved.

MOI’S MISERY…Elyounoussi holds his head in anguish as Patryk Klimala lets him know he was in a good position.

Six minutes earlier, the Hoops back lot didn’t look too clever when Goldson was allowed to get on the end of a swinging free-kick from James Tavernier.

It was like witnessing exhibits at Madame Tussaud’s as the ball swirled into the danger area and the defender cushioned a header towards goal from eight yards.

Vasilis Barkas should have saved the effort. He got a hand to the ball, but allowed it to crawl past him and over the line. He will know he should have done so much better. It was a powderpuff attempt and the visitors leapt with joy at the Greek’s failure to at least push it out.

HEADING FOR TROUBLE…Connor Goldson’s effort foxes keeper Vasilis Barkas for the opening goal.

Lennon gave a second appearance to Stephen Welsh at right-back and if it was designed to free Jeremie Frimpong to race at Borna Barisic further up the pitch it did not work.

Celtic rarely threatened on the flanks. On the left, debut Bhoy Diego Laxalt looked like someone who had not played a competitive match since July.

The game was passing him by as it was Patryk Klimala up front. To be fair to the Polish striker, he wasn’t getting great service, but his touch was off when the ball dropped at his feet. Twice in succession he rattled the ball out for a shy when a little bit of composure would have helped bring the Hoops up the pitch.

Scott Brown and Callum McGregor, as ever, tried hard in the middle of the park, but too many moves broke down at Olivier Ntcham who was robbed far too often for the manager’s comfort.

It was an opening half to forget as Celtic failed to bring cohesion to their game. The front pass was often hit more in hope than in precision and the visitors were delighted to mop it up and start a move towards their rivals’ half.

Alas, the calamitous errors continued in the 54th minute and nine minutes following the resumption of play, Goldson was presented with a second goal after some more inept defending.

Laxalt was slow to spot the danger when Scott Arfield was given time to sweep in a low right-wing cross. Once again, the Hoops defence stood and watched and the centre-back tried his luck. Duffy blocked his original effort, but, as luck would have it, the ball rebounded straight back to his former Brighton team-mate and this time he poked it into the net.

Barkas was motionless as the ball hit the net. The keeper was doing nothing to enhance his reputation in this encounter.

SCRAMBLE…Shane Duffy is on his knees as Connor Goldson thrusts the ball towards the Celtic net. Stephen Welsh looks on.

STRANDED…Vasilis Barkas can only watch Goldson’s shot head for the back of the net.

Lennon threw on Ajeti for the ineffectual Elyounoussi in the 56th minute to try to inject some life into his team.

In the 67th minute, it was game over for Klimala and Ntcham as Griffiths and Tom Rogic entered the fray.

With six minutes to go, Greg Taylor and David Turnbull came on for Welsh and Laxalt. No-one noticed.

It’s back to the drawing board for Neil Lennon.

They say Celtic fans are the team’s twelfth man. On this showing, they are the ENTIRE team.

TEAM: Barkas; Welsh (sub: Taylor 84), Duffy, Ajer, Laxalt (sub: Turnbull 84); Brown, McGregor; Frimpong, Ntcham (sub: Rogic 67), Elyounoussi (sub: Ajeti 56); Klimala (sub: Griffiths 67).

 
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