Celtic outclassed what could simultaneously be both the worst Rangers** team in past 20 years and the best in the next 20 years.
**If they survive.
Goals win games but on so many occasions in the 124 year history of these games brave tackles are equally important and it was an exceptional tackle from Adam Matthews which set this contest alight. Lee Wallace was in possession when Matthews hooked the ball away from him before whipping in a cross which Goian knocked off the toes of Hooper and behind for a corner.
Kris Commons was to have an enormous influence on the game starting with the resultant 17th minute corner. Rangers marked man-to-man but as the Celtic players inside the box moved towards the front post a huge zone was left unmarked at the back post. The ball was inside the box before Charlie Mulgrew but the Celtic defender was flying and dived full-length to head downwards. The bounce left Allan McGregor no chance.
Celtic’s stranglehold on the game was a result of their domination of the key midfield area. Rangers played with Little and Aluko either side of McCulloch up front but Celtic matched up with a risky three in central defence, Loovens, Mulgrew and Wanyama. Such was the gulf in class between Rangers forward players and Celtic’s defenders that the profit Celtic gained in midfield didn’t have a corresponding debit in defence.
Kris Commons scored his first goal of the season on 31 minutes. Gary Hooper collected on the by-line before playing a square pass into space 25 yards from goal. Commons was first to the ball but feigned forward before pulling back and allowing the ball to pass across his body. This fooled Kyle Bartley into lunging for a tackle in a space Commons never ventured into. The deliciously intelligent move unlocked Rangers defences; Commons was clean through with only the keeper to beat, and boy did he beat him.
With McGregor advancing as though the tax man was chasing him, Commons was the personification of cool, carried the ball until 13 yards out and chipped the goalkeeper.
Although Charlie Mulgrew’s crossing was missed, the addition of Emilio Izaguirre, Commons and Adam Matthews into midfield ensured Celtic were always comfortable and threatening in possession. This allowed Scott Brown and Joe Ledley to dominate the central midfield area. Brown played his best game of the season, putting his body between ball and opponent innumerable times, no matter the odds.
By half time, the only question was, how many?
The record books will show a Kris Commons tackle won the ball off Ross McCabe on 54 minutes before Giorgios Samaras passed to Gary Hooper. Hooper’s shot from the 18 yard line rifled into the top corner to complete the scoring.
I said the record books would show this is how the goal happened but another version of events will say that coordinated singing from Celtic fans spooked an inhibited looking Rangers team.