CELTIC 0 SEVCO RANGERS 0
BRENDAN RODGERS has still to sample defeat after eight outings against
the Ibrox side.
This one ended in a hectic goalless draw where Celtic were far from their best at Parkhead this afternoon.
There were unforced errors, erratic passing and even throw-ins were going astray. The players look up for their three-week break and the club’s trip to Dubai.
A remarkable miss by the normally-composed Scotty Sinclair in first-half stoppage time kept the scoreline blank.
The English attacker looked as though he could not fail to hit the target when a low sweeping cross from Stuart Armstrong found him completely unmarked at the far post.
Sinclair pulled the trigger and dragged his six-yard effort about a yard past Wes Foderingham’s right-hand post.
The cries of ‘Goal!’ from the home support were stifled in an instant as the ball zipped wide.
It hadn’t been the first time in the game the Hoops fans had thought the champions had taken the lead.
In the 13th minute, Kieran Tierney got free on the left wing to pick out James Forrest who skipped past a couple of tackles to set himself up for an angled shot.
Amazingly, Foderingham launched himself to his left to get a fingertip to the effort to send it spinning beyond the far post.
And it was the Ibrox keeper who defied Celtic twice only three minutes later.
Armstrong curled in a menacing free-kick from the left and Moussa Dembele and Dedryck Boyata both went for it.
The Frenchman made the vital connection to send a header arcing towards the top right-hand corner. Foderingham got a touch just under the crossbar to knock the ball to the side.
Sinclair was lurking, but his shot was blocked on the line by James Tavernier and his follow-up lacked oomph and was straight into the frateful arms of the grounded shot stopper.
So near and yet so far away.
Statistics showed Celtic controlled 70 per cent of the first-half hour, but Graeme Murty’s men had started well and had a geniune opportunity in the fifth minute.
Experienced Mikael Lustig looked nervous right from the off and a slack pass gifted possession to Josh Windass who set up Alfredo Morelas.
The Colombian’s low drive was parried by Craig Gordon and, thankfully, Lustig atoned for his earlier mistake by getting back to boot the ball to safety.
Celtic powered back into the confrontation after the brief early flurry from their opponents who were certainly committed.
Rodgers’ men had another chance to open the scoring in the first-half. Sinclair went on a sparkling left-wing sortie that saw him elude three challenges, but his low ball across goal was just two yards in front
of Dembele where the merest of touches would have sent it netbound.
Both Sinclair and Dembele – the goalscorers in the New Year win at Ibrox last season – were substituted during the second-half with
Olivier Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths coming on as the manager attempted to change the system.
Gordon had to show his international class shortly after the turnaround when Daniel Candias whipped in a right-wing cross and the unmarked Tavernier attempted an acrobatic effort from eight yards.
The Hoops keeper displayed his atheltic prowess, too, and stretched out a hand to flick the ball over the bar.
And he utilised his outstanding reflexes to the maximum in the 68th minute when Tavernier picked out Morelas smack in front of goal.
He powered a header towards the target, but Gordon knocked it past the post with his extended left leg.
At the other end, Sinclair picked out Forrest who slid in Armstrong coming in from the left, but his first-time shot was wayward and
missed the target.
Celtic, though, still looked as they had a winning goal in them as the game neared its frantic conclusion.
In the 89th minute, subs Griffiths and Ntcham combined on the right, but the French Under-21 midfielder fluffed his first touch on the edge of the box and his half-hit effort trundled towards Foderingham.
Scott Brown practically bossed the midfield in the first-half and Boyata won most of his headers throughout the 90 minutes.
And Gordon certainly showed why he is boss Rodgers’ No.1 man. However, he could still work on his distribution!
A word, too, about Kristoffer Ajer making his fourth successive appearance in central defence. He looked clam under pressure and
brought the ball forward well.
Also, the team have not conceded a solitary goal during the games against Aberdeen, Partick Thistle, Dundee and now the new club from Govan.
Now the recording-breaking Bhoys and Brendan Rodgers can take a winter break. It has been well earned.
CQN Man of the Match – Craig Gordon
TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Ajer, Tierney; Brown, Armstrong;
Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair (sub: Ntcham 72); Dembele (sub: Griffiths