Taking a Positive from a Devastating DayBy: rafa | January 6th, 2011
By now I am sure you all know Rangers fell to Celtic at home last Sunday. And if you’re a Ranger’s fan, you know just how bitter a loss to our Old Firm rivals is. Needless to say, Celtic deserved the three points they earned and are now four point clear atop the Scottish Premier League. Even Ranger’s manager Walter Smith had to hand it to hoops, giving credit to Neil Lennon’s side for staying strong throughout.
Georgios Samaras grabbed two goals from Sunday’s clash, one being a sloppy defensive error and the other coming from the penalty spot. He was given the “man of the match” award for a game that didn’t really deserve one. As is the case in all Old Firm matches (and most of Scottish football in general), there were tons of tough tackles, dirty challenges, and healthy competition to be had.
You could argue that Rangers were the better team in a pretty dull first half. Lee McCulloch and Steven Whittaker had two promising chances which were dealt with by a competent Celtic defensive line. Other than that, there wasn’t very much more to highlight so to speak. I figure both Walter Smith and Neil Lennon had quite the team talk at half, demanding much more from their respective clubs.
Well, Celtic came out the better team in the second half. And in the 62nd minute, Hoops scored the all important first goal that came off a defensive blunder from Richard Foster. Seven minutes later, Rangers dug themselves deeper into a hole when Madjid Bougherra tripped Samaras in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Samaras picked himself up and put the penalty away himself.
The one bright spot for the ‘Gers was Jaime Ness who was handed his first start on an incredibly memorable day. Ness was handed his first start because Steven Naismith didn’t pass fitness before kickoff. New Celtic signing Freddie Ljungberg didn’t make the squad due to a sudden virus he picked up. I was right when I said Kyle Lafferty was going to make an appearance, but when he was given a good opportunity in the form of a spot kick outside the box, he failed to get the ball past the wall.
It’s hard to really say too much about this loss. It wasn’t pretty… for either side. Even though Celtic walked away with 3 points and a four point lead in the table over Rangers, the Light Blues can at least take solace in the fact that they have still yet to play the football they are capable of. It’s just that before this point, Walter’s gritty team grinded out results.
The real positive from this day came not from the match itself, but from the pre-match ceremonies in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Ibrox Disaster of 2 January, 1971. Rangers were led out by former captain and club legend John Greig, who was also captain of his side on that day forty years ago. Celtic great Billy McNeill led out his hoops, and both former captains wore black armbands in remembrance of the 66 Rangers fans who lost their lives when stairway 13 collapsed. After both teams were lead out, an incredibly respectful Ibrox crowd consisting of both Rangers and Celtic supporter observed a full minute of silence before the kick off to honor those who died, as well as the former Rangers player Avi Cohen, who recently died.
I would truly like to thank those Celtic supporters who showed the respect during the pre-match ceremonies. There tends to be those few drunk fans who feel it necessary to ruin such honorable ceremonies with random yelling and shouting of disgusting vitriol. But on this occasion, everyone observed the immensity of the date and its meaning, and both clubs came together in a special way to pay their respects.
With that said, I think I should remind those Celtic supporters out there that we went to Celtic Park first this season and came away with three points and we can do it again. Yes, Celtic are 4 points ahead of Rangers, but we have two game in hand and a whole half of the season to win our third straight SPL title, sending the Great Walter Smith off in the glory he deserves.
Rafael Gonzales- Producer of World Football Daily