CELTIC 1 RANGERS 1
IT was written in the stars that this Glasgow derby would end honours even.
After all the nonsensical comments about a guard of honour, it was destined to be a stalemate – and so it proved at Parkhead this afternoon.
Celtic bossed large chunks of the game – just as they did at Ibrox in January – but they could not capitalise on that superiority in the hard currency of goals and points.
They had some good performances and John Kennedy, who should know something about centre-back play, must have been pleased with the performance of Stephen Welsh.
However, he cannot be satisfied with the lack of responsibility adopted by his players when it comes to defending a set-play. They have conceded two goals in their past four outings – both directly from deadball efforts. Ross County scored from a free-kick in their 1-0 win in Dingwall two days before Neil Lennon’s departure and it happened again today. Clearly, that is not acceptable.
The Ibrox side have scored four goals against Celtic this season, THREE from deadballs – two corner-kicks and a free-kick. Who long does it take for the penny to drop?
BY THE LEFT…Odsonne Edouard fires over a cross with Leon Belagun too slow to react.
TAKE-OFF…Mohamed Elyounoussi flies through the air to make contact.
IN THE NET…Elyounoussi watches his effort beat Allan McGregor.
The breakthrough goal arrived in the 23rd minute and was a thing of beauty as the Hoops sliced through the retreating visitors’ back-line.
Keeper Scott Bain got the move in motion with a pass to Callum McGregor in the left-back position. He switched it inside for Kristoffer Ajer and then raced into space to take the return before measuring a pass down the left to the rampaging Odsonne Edouard.
The French ace didn’t break stride as he first-timed a cross into the box and Mohamed Elyounoussi’s timing was impeccable as he launched himself forward to get his forehead to the ball and flash an effort beyond the started Allan McGregor.
The Norwegian’s concentration was absolute as he got in behind Filip Heldander to turn the ball in from four yards.
It was no more than Celtic deserved following a period of domination.
THAT’S MY BHOY…Mohamed Elyounoussi races away in joy.
Four minutes later, it looked as though Edouard had been clipped by the lunging Borna Barisic as he moved onto a forward pass. He was sent sprawling and it appeared a stick-on penalty-kick, but, instead, referee Willie Collum reached for a yellow card and booked the Celt.
The visitors breathed a sigh of relief because TV pictures seemed to show contact from the defender at a crucial moment. Moving at pace, it was just enough to send the striker spinning.
Collum waved away the spot-kick appeals. The match official would have been relieved in the knowledge know there were no VAR cameras in the vicinity.
Celtic were moving the ball around well, but disaster struck in the 38th minute after Jonjoe Kenny presented the Ibrox side with a corner-kick after a crazy and needless corner-kick following a nonsensical pass from about 40 yards.
It was an inexplicable action from the on-loan defender and even Usain Bolt at his Olympic gold-winning best couldn’t have prevented his wayward pass from going behind.
THREE CHEERS…Ryan Christie, Odsonne Edouard and Mohamed Elyounoussi celebrate the goal.
Steven Gerrard’s side took full advantage with an undeserved leveller. Barisic swung in the left-wing deadball, Leon Belagun was allowed a free run into the box and his header to the back post was nudged over the line by Alfredo Morelos from practically under the crossbar.
It was a wretched goal to concede in a campaign littered with the loss of goals from set-plays.
It’s like watching a horror movie in slow motion.
Celtic had most of the second-half, too, but couldn’t convert possession into goals.
The Hoops restarted like a whirlwind and a shot from Diego Laxalt, who worked hard throughout, was deflected for a right-wing corner-kick. Turnbull’s well-driven cross was met by Welsh, but his 10-yard header went a couple of yards over the bar.
Almost inevitably, Collum booked Scott Brown after a challenge on Ryan Kent who took off Superman-style at the merest hint of a touch.
Minutes later, Morelos went into the book after his umpteenth foul on the Hoops skipper. On this occasion, the referee was forced to reach for a card.
GET IN THERE…John Kennedy watches Celtic take the lead.
Around this stage, McGregor stretched to his right to touch away a swerving 20-yarder drive from Edouard and the home side forced their ninth corner-kick in the 65th minute.
Turnbull’s delivery from the left arced towards the back post where Connor Goldson and Ajer jostled for the cross. It was six and half-a-dozen, but Collum gave the visitors the benefit and awarded a free-kick.
With 20 minutes to go, it looked as though Gerrard and Co were happy to keep their unbeaten league record intact as they filtered into defence and the middle of the park.
OUT OF LUCK…Odsonne Edouard came so close to a second goal.
In the 86th minute, Edouard had the chance to give Celtic the victory they warranted. Kenny went some way towards his corner-kick gift by whipping in a superb right-wing cross. His whiplash ball arrived in the danger area smack in front of McGregor and the Frenchman was just too slow to react.
He lunged at the ball and the chance was gone. He held his head in hands in anguish. He knew the ball should have ended in the back of the net. It was one of his last actions before getting the hook.
Interim gaffer Kennedy made four substitutions in the last 12 minutes with James Forrest, Tom Rogic, Leigh Griffiths and Ismaila Soro coming on for Turnbull, Elyounoussi, Edouard and Brown.
It was too little too late – the sad story of Celtic’s season.
TEAM: Bain; Kenny, Welsh, Ajer, Laxalt; Brown (sub: Soro 88), Turnbull (sub: Forrest 78), McGregor, Christie; Elyounoussi (sub: Rogic 85), Edouard (sub: Griffiths 88).