RANGERS 2 CELTIC 0
ODSONNE EDOUARD was the main culprit as Celtic pressed the self-destruct button to send their wretched campaign into oblivion at Ibrox this afternoon.
The French striker contrived to miss a penalty-kick with a feeble attempt and pass up another glorious opportunity from six yards as the Hoops headed for their first trophyless season in 11 years.
Edouard was not alone in playing a major role in the end of an era with Stephen Welsh and Mohamed Elyounoussi also guilty of wastefully passing up superb chances in front of goal that should have seen the ball tucked neatly behind the exposed Allan McGregor on both occasions.
The only Celtic player to get the ball in the net was Jonjoe Kenny with a ridiculous own goal to double the home side’s advantage in the first-half.
The Scottish Cup was the team’s only chance of silverware in the season of a death by a thousand cuts and they well and truly dynamited any hopes of salvaging something from the wreckage.
SPOT-KICK SINNER…Odsonne Edouard missed two glorious chances.
Celtic once again blundered into a minefield of mistakes against Steven Gerrard’s side and meekly surrendered to a third defeat in four meetings with their Glasgow rivals. They gifted the home side two goals as they continued their disastrous stumble through these derby encounters.
Trailing by a 10th-minute goal to Steven Davis, young central defender Welsh had an extraordinary miss from four yards when it looked impossible not to hit the target. Instead, the youngster ended up clearing the ball after getting into a great position following a cross from David Turnbull.
It fell to Kristoffer Ajer who didn’t quite make the right connection, but his shot was netbound until it hit Filip Helander on the line and the relieved Swede belted the ball clear.
There was a sustained spell of pressure from the Cup holders, but the finishing wasn’t clinical and Allan McGregor’s goal survived.
Just when it appeared the Hoops might get a reward, Kenny, who had been struggling right from the kick-off and looked petrified to run at Borna Barisic, thundered a near-post effort past the stunned Scott Bain for the second goal.
It was a bizarre attempt at a clearance from the unimpressive on-loan Everton right-back whose main contribution to the afternoon was to pass the ball back when his team-mates were pleading with him to attempt to get down the line. Joe Aribo got away from the leaden-footed Diego Laxalt with far too much ease before firing the ball low across goal.
It was aimed at Ryan Kent, but Kenny was quicker to the ball than his opponent to deflect it past a mesmerised Scott Bain. Unbelievably, Celtic have conceded three goals at Ibrox and two have come from their own players with Kenny joining Callum McGregor who got the Govan side’s winner in January.
Things started to go wrong in the tenth minute when McGregor lost control of the ball as he charged forward. Connor Goldson was allowed to knock the ball to Kent who drove at the defence.
OFF DAY…Callum McGregor struggled at Ibrox.
He collided with Welsh, but the ball found its way to Alfredo Morelos who hit a pass in front of Aribo. He was allowed to skip inside before he tried a shot at goal.
His effort was going nowhere in particular until it hit the boot of Ajer and spun into the air. It fell perfectly for Davis to perform an impromptu overhead-kick and his shot left Bain helpless. It was a tight call, but unfortunately the midfielder had been played onside by Scott Brown.
The Hoops responded well and Mohamed Elyounoussi had a shot blocked from the edge of the box. A minute later, Edouard had a shot beaten away by McGregor. The Frenchman opted for power when precision might have been the better option and the opportunity was missed. It was the story of his miserable afternoon.
Greg Taylor came on for the struggling Laxalt at the start of the second-half and this could have been the final farewell from the AC Milan loanee.
Inside 20 seconds of the restart, Turnbull charged forward to whip in a low drive from the edge of the box, but McGregor was alert and pushed the attempt round the post for a corner-kick.
In the 47th minute, Brown made perfect connection with the ball as he slid in to take it off Kent’s toe, but referee Bobby Madden couldn’t resist flashing the yellow card at the departing Celtic skipper. It was a nonsensical decision from the match official.
OH NO…Mohamed Elyounoussi can’t hide his anguish.
Ten minutes later. Edouard had a horrendous miss after Kenny had released Elyounoussi on the right. Some clever footwork took him beyond Helander and Goldson, but his shot clipped the outrushing McGregor and flicked up into the air.
It fell perfectly for Edouard, but, amazingly, he tried to be too fancy and waywardly send the ball spiralling over the bar from six yards. It was an awful miss.
Two minutes later, he latched onto a bad passback from Nathan Patterson to pass inside to Elyounoussi who had the entire goal to shoot at. However, he took a clumsy touch, McGregor blocked his effort and the rebound fell to Edouard who saw his shot deflected to safety by Scott Arfield.
The only reply from the overrun home side was a shot from Kent that was fisted away by Bain. The rebound fell to Morelos, but his first-time drive went straight in the arms of the grateful Hoops keeper.
In the 69th minute, McGregor, under pressure following a left-wing corner-kick from Turnbull, saw his punched clearance drop at the feet of Welsh. From 12 yards, the youngster saw his shot fly wildly off target.
NO WAY THROUGH…Leigh Griffiths couldn’t make an impact as a late substitute.
At this stage there was precious little ingenuity coming from either McGregor or Christie and in the 73rd minute the latter came off with Leigh Griffiths taking his place.
In the 76th minute, Kenny tried a first-time effort from 25 yards and goodness knows where his appalling effort ended up as it took off into orbit. His hopes of a contract at Celtic probably went with it.
The visitors were thrown a lifeline in the 80th minute when Griffiths was barged in the box by Aribo as he was about to move onto the deflection off Helander from an Edouard free-kick.
Madden had no alternative but to point to the spot and Aribo, who had just been booked, might have been fortunate not to see red.
In the end it didn’t matter. Edouard wandered up to the ball and hit a powderpuff effort to McGregor’s right that saw the veteran keeper push the ball away.
Hoops fans with good memories only need to look back to Paisley in September when Edouard missed with an identical spot-kick against St Mirren’s Bobby Zlamal. Some people never learn.
With four minutes to go, Albian Ajeti came on for Elyounoussi and it’s doubtful if the Swiss striker got a kick at the ball.
Celtic’s season that promised so much in the summer ended in a whimper in Govan today.
There is much work to be done to restore this club to its former glories. There were a few individuals on display today who will be nowhere near a green-and-white strip in the new season.
In a season of uncertainty, that much is certain.
TEAM: Bain; Kenny, Welsh, Ajer, Laxalt (sub: Taylor 46): Brown, McGregor; Christie (sub: Griffiths 73), Turnbull, Elyounoussi (sub: Ajeti 86); Edouard.