Football/Soccer

Brendan Rodgers gets the upper hand on Steven Gerrard: Managers in Focus

Celtic captain Scott Brown (8) leads the post match celebrations with Celtic's Kieran Tierney (63) and Leigh Griffiths (9) after a 1-0 victory in the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match against Rangers at Celtic Park, Glasgow.  
Andy Newport

Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership: Celtic (0) 1 Rangers (0) 0 

It was master versus apprentice as former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers came up against his old Anfield skipper Steven Gerrard for the first time since the latter took over at Rangers.

Celtic manager Rodgers came out on top as the Hoops claimed a 1-0 win at Parkhead and here we look at how the two bosses fared in the first Old Firm meeting of the new season...

Team selection

Rodgers was denied the services of Moussa Dembele after the Frenchman forced through a £19.7million move to Lyon just two days before the clash with Gers, but he had the comfort of being able to field the same starting XI which beat the Ibrox club 5-0 in the final derby of last season.

Skipper James Tavernier was the only man in blue still present in the Rangers ranks from that nightmare defeat as Gerrard handed Old Firm debuts to six players. But even that influx of fresh talent could not change the outcome as Celtic claimed a one-sided victory.

Tactics

There was little new about the way Celtic operated as they stuck to the fluid game plan that has claimed back-to-back trebles under Rodgers. Kieran Tierney was allowed to push on from left-back, and he was given plenty of encouragement by the hapless Ryan Kent. That tied down the Gers winger and also opened up space for match-winner Olivier Ntcham to roam free as Scott Arfield was sucked out from central midfield to back up the exposed Tavernier on the right flank.

Gerrard had road-tested a 3-5-2 formation against Motherwell last week but was dissuaded from trying it out this time after his team's ropey defensive display at Fir Park. Instead he looked to get an edge on the champions by putting frontman Kyle Lafferty up against the perceived weak link in the home defence, Mikael Lustig. But it failed to pay off as the Swede snuffed out the ineffectual former Hearts hitman.

Substitutions

It was evident early on that Rangers were nowhere near hitting the levels Celtic were capable of, with the hosts racking up an astonishing 75 per cent of the possession during the first half.

Having played with just nine men for the final half-hour of Thursday night's Europa League clash in Ufa, Gers looked in desperate need of fresh legs the longer the game went. Gerrard, though, waited until the 81st minute to introduce youngster Glenn Middleton. Daniel Candeias was thrown on with three minutes left but the pair were unable to inspire a fightback.

Rodgers had the luxury of replacing £9million man Odsonne Eduoard with another proven goalscorer in Leigh Griffiths and it almost paid off as the Scotland hitman came close on a couple of occasions.

Overall

Gerrard has certainly made Rangers a tougher nut to crack and will argue last year's Ibrox vintage would have suffered a much more painful afternoon in the same circumstances - but the fact of the matter is he will have to make significant improvements to the way his side take care of the ball if they are to topple Rodgers' team from their perch.

 

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard appears dejected after the final whistle of their Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership 1-0 loss to Celtic at Celtic Park, Glasgow.

 

CONNOR GOLDSON PLAYS DOWN GAP BETWEEN CELTIC AND RANGERS

By Ronnie Esplin, Press Association Sport

Rangers defender Connor Goldson played down the gap between the Ibrox men and Celtic despite another Hoops Old Firm win on Sunday.

Olivier Ntcham's second-half strike handed Steven Gerrard his first defeat as Rangers boss in his first Glasgow derby.

The champions dominated the Ladbrokes Premiership meeting at Parkhead and hit woodwork four times with Gers keeper Allan McGregor making several good saves.

The victory stretched Brendan Rodgers' unbeaten record against Rangers to 12 games since arriving at Parkhead in 2016 as Celtic moved into second place, three points behind Hearts while Gerrard's side have five points from 12 and sit in seventh position.

Goldson, 25, who signed for the Ibrox club in the summer, said: "Obviously this is the first time I have played in a derby but I have just said that when I came here in pre-season I heard a lot of people say how much better they were, how they beat Rangers 5-0 last season.

"I thought they were going to be like Barcelona. I am not just saying that.

"There was such a down in our football club of how big the gap was, it was like some of our players, that are maybe not here any more, were looking at them like they were nowhere near catchable.

"I am not going to say they are not a good team. They are a good team and we respect them.

"But I think we are getting closer and the players that the manager has brought in have been together for two, three months. We will get closer."

Skipper Scott Brown insists Celtic have a firm grip of the fixture.

He said: "We have got quality all over the park. We believe if we turn up we can beat anyone - especially at Celtic Park.

"We've beaten them here and over at Ibrox. It is about what we do from now on.

"It's not about Rangers. It's about how well we play."

Celtic midfielder Olivier Ntcham's second-half strike handed Steven Gerrard his first defeat as Rangers boss in his first Old Firm encounter.

The former Liverpool and England captain, who played under Hoops manager Brendan Rodgers at Anfield, had yet to lose in 12 games since taking over at Ibrox before the trip to Parkhead.

Gerrard, however, watched Celtic dominate the Ladbrokes Premiership encounter with James Forrest and Mikael Lustig hitting the woodwork and Gers keeper Allan McGregor tipping an Ntcham drive on to the crossbar before the French midfielder struck in the 62nd minute with a breakaway goal.

It was a deserved 1-0 win for the champions and it stretched Rodgers' unbeaten record against Rangers to 12 games since he joined the Glasgow club in 2016.

Rodgers had lost Moussa Dembele to Lyon on transfer deadline day for a reported £20million but fellow French striker Odsonne Edouard returned along with Forrest and Tom Rogic.

It was nearly all change for the visitors since their last visit to Celtic Park, with skipper James Tavernier the only survivor.

Connor Goldson, Ovie Ejaria, Ryan Kent, Nikola Katic, Borna Barisic and Scott Arfield were playing for the first time in the fixture.

With only around 800 Rangers fans inside the 60,000-capacity stadium, a vastly-reduced away ticket allocation due to a tit-for-tat ticket row, there was a different dynamic to the atmosphere.

Hoops voices boomed down from the stands as Celtic took early control of the ball and refused to let go.

Celtic skipper Scott Brown picked up an early booking from referee Willie Collum for a foul on Kyle Lafferty and there was some controversy in the 25th minute when Rangers goalkeeper McGregor, after punching clear a Callum McGregor free-kick, appeared to kick out at Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer who fell to the ground but play carried on.

McGregor then pushed an Ntcham free-kick past his near post for a corner which came to nothing.

Forrest smacked the bar in the 33rd minute with a deflected 30-yard drive and from the resultant corner Lustig's header from a Dedryck Boyata flick-on also hit the bar with Rangers scrambling to clear their lines.

Collum was having a busy time, booking Edouard for foul on Ryan Jack before the French forward missed a great chance from Callum McGregor's cross, heading straight at Allan McGregor who clawed the ball away for another corner which proved fruitless.

The home side started the second half as tenaciously as they had finished the first and in the 50th minute McGregor tipped a powerful long-range drive from Ntcham on to the bar before Celtic's McGregor gave away a foul in his attempt to get to the rebound.

The corner count mounted for Rodgers' men and the goal felt inevitable, although it came on a break in the 62nd minute driven by Rogic.

The Australian played in Edouard and his pass to Forrest was cut across for Ntcham, with the French playmaker knocking the ball into the net from 12 yards.

Griffiths replaced Edouard minutes later and his corner was met by Lustig who skimmed a header past the far post.

Rangers had to come out of their defensive shell and in a rare foray Alfredo Morelos' angled drive was saved by Hoops goalkeeper Craig Gordon for a corner which was defended, before Lafferty headed a Tavernier cross past the far post.

Griffiths skimmed the outside of the post with a long-range effort and at the other end Tavernier flashed a shot wide, but there was no doubt the champions were well worth their win.

 

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers after the 1-0 Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership win over Rangers at Celtic Park, Glasgow. 

 

PLAYER RATINGS

Celtic

CRAIG GORDON: Yet another deadly quiet Old Firm afternoon for the Hoops number one - 6/10.

MIKAEL LUSTIG: Came out on top of his battle with Kyle Lafferty and only denied the opener when his instinctive header came back off the crossbar - 7.

DEDRYCK BOYATA: Still not back in the Hoops faithful's good books after his AEK Athens no-show but, apart from one brief slip, barely faltered against Alfredo Morelos - 7.

KRISTOFFER AJER: The young Norwegian is still learning his trade but again showed his potential with a calm, controlled display - 7.

KIERAN TIERNEY: Blunted the threat of Ryan Kent as he forced the Ibrox winger back time and again with his bursts forward - 8.

SCOTT BROWN: Booked for early lunge on Lafferty but settled into his now traditional armchair role as he strolled through another derby battle - 8.

OLIVIER NTCHAM: The Frenchman capped off an excellent display as he finally found a way past Allan McGregor with his finish from a lightning-quick counter-attack - 9.

JAMES FORREST: Toyed with Borna Barisic at times before showing tremendous finesse to tee up Ntcham for the opener. Unlucky when a screamer of a strike rocked the crossbar - 8.

TOM ROGIC: He might not have grabbed his trademark Old Firm goal but the big Australian again showed what a classy operator he is with a string of lovely touches - 8.

CALLUM McGREGOR: Laid one on a plate for Odsonne Edouard as his combination work with Tierney caused Gers real headaches - 7.

ODSONNE EDOUARD: The responsibility of leading Celtic's attack now rests with the £9million man following Moussa Dembele's departure but wasted his big chance when he headed straight at McGregor - 6.

Substitutes

LEIGH GRIFFITHS (for Edouard, 66): Produced a couple of decent efforts at goal - 6.

RYAN CHRISTIE (for Rogic , 78): Lured Connor Goldson into a booking as he won a free-kick - 5.

SCOTT SINCLAIR (for FORREST, 90): On at the death - 5.

Rangers

ALLAN McGREGOR: Rangers will be relieved his kick-out at Ajer was not spotted by the officials as he went on to pull off a string of impressive saves as he almost single-handedly kept the score down - 8.

JAMES TAVERNIER: The Ibrox skipper started nervously and never recovered as his normally dangerous crossing ability deserted him. Wasted Gers' best chance as he fired wide late on - 5.

CONNOR GOLDSON: If only the rest of the Rangers line-up had the Englishman's composure under pressure, perhaps they may not have struggled so badly - 7.

NIKOLA KATIC: Largely coped with Edouard's threat but never looked settled when asked to bring the ball out of defence - 6.

BORNA BARISIC: The big Croatian looked unnerved on his derby debut and appeared unsure how to deal with Forrest. Picked up a booking after clattering into the Celtic winger - 4.

RYAN JACK: Came close with an early snap-shot but the Rangers anchorman failed to get a grip on the game as the Hoops utterly dominated - 5.

OVIE EJARIA: A player with huge potential but too often the on-loan Liverpool youngster took unnecessary risks in possession - 5.

RYAN KENT: Could not lay a glove on Tierney during the first half. Improved after the break but failed to properly threaten the Parkhead defence - 5.

SCOTT ARFIELD: The former Burnley man put in a tireless shift trying to smother Celtic's midfield threat but there were too many fires to put out - 6.

KYLE LAFFERTY: A constant menace to Celtic during his spell at Hearts but this time resembled Bambi on ice as he struggled to keep his footing - 4.

ALFREDO MORELOS: Rewarded with a new four-year deal on the eve of the clash but the Colombian needed to hold on to the ball better, instead he too often let Brendan Rodgers' team off the hook - 5.

Substitutes

GLENN MIDDLETON (for Jack , 81): Failed to make an impact - 4.

DANIEL CANDEIAS (for Kent , 87): Not able to create a late opening - 5.

Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership: Celtic (0) 1 Rangers (0) 0 

Celtic: Gordon,Lustig,Boyata,Ajer,Tierney,Ntcham,Brown, Forrest (Sinclair 90),Rogic (Christie 77),McGregor, Edouard (Griffiths 66). 
Subs Not Used: Benkovic,Gamboa,Bain,Eboue. 

Booked: Brown,Edouard. 

Goals: Ntcham 62. 

Rangers: McGregor,Tavernier,Katic,Goldson,Barisic, Jack (Middleton 81),Ejaria,Kent (Candeias 87),Arfield,Lafferty, 
Morelos. 

Subs Not Used: Foderingham,Flanagan,Halliday,McCrorie,Worrall. 

Booked: Barisic,McGregor,Morelos,Goldson. 

Ref: Willie Collum (Scotland).

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