Bhoys boss John Kennedy blames referee over red card as Celtic slump to 4-1 Old Firm rout.. their heaviest derby defeat in 13 years
JOHN Kennedy hit out at Old Firm novice Nick Welsh as he laid responsibility for Celtic's heaviest derby defeat in 13 years at the feet of the debutant referee.
The Hoops crashed to a 4-1 loss at Ibrox after having Callum McGregor sent off just 26 minutes into the game.
The Scotland midfielder had only collected his first caution for a trip on Ryan Kent three minutes before.
Welsh waved play on as McGregor then crunched into Glen Kamara in the build up to Kemar Roofe's opener but returned to show the Hoops ace his second yellow as Gers celebrated.
It was a devastating double blow and while they did briefly level through Odsonne Edouard, Celtic were powerless to prevent Rangers racking up their biggest derby win since October 2007 as Alfredo Morelos, Roofe and Jermain Defoe piled on the misery.
After watching the fallen champions fail to register a single win over their bitter rivals a top-flight campaign for the first time in 21 years, interim boss Kennedy took aim at Welsh.
"Callum being sent off at the same time as Rangers score obviously swings the game in their favour," he said. "We got ourselves back into it but in key moments we weren't strong enough in defending our box.
"When we did have our chances, which are always going to be hard to come by with 10 men, we just couldn't get the ball in the net.
"It was a bit of what we have been (all season) again - but made all the harder because of the decision to send Callum off.
"I think it's a bad decision. Not the second one because he's on a yellow and makes a tackle on the ground.
"I asked the referee for clarity at half-time on why he booked him for the first one. His words to me exactly were 'it was a reckless challenge'. It wasn't reckless, I've seen it. There was no malice, no intent in terms of any power behind the tackle.
"It was a big game for a young official who doesn't have a lot of experience. He makes a very harsh call which costs us.
"Callum is gutted. He is the most disappointed man at Ibrox today.
"I feel for him because I don't think he deserved it. Okay, he makes a decision to go to ground (for the second one) which he'll learn from. But he shouldn't have been in that position in the first place, he shouldn't have had a yellow card earlier."
The match was Scott Brown's final Old Firm battle but, after 44 derby clashes, the curtain crashed down on top of the captain before he heads to Aberdeen in the summer.
But Kennedy said: "He won't be judged on that. It's not his fault. He has come here plenty of times and won. He's won many, many more trophies than a lot of people on the pitch today.
"Scott has had a terrific time at Celtic. This shouldn't be any sort of mark against him."
Having racked up a blemish-free campaign against their old rivals, Steven Gerrard's champions now just need to negotiate their final two games with Livingston and Aberdeen to complete an invincible league campaign.
The Ibrox boss said: "I'm really pleased with the performance.
"We started the game really well and picked a really aggressive and bold shape today as we wanted to go for Celtic's throat.
"We did that and took the lead but unfortunately we were sloppy in terms of the equaliser.
"But then again it was us on the front foot forcing the issue and then Alfredo scored a fantastic second.
"When that was happening there was also a big moment with the red card - but it was the right call.
"So we've worked extremely hard for this victory and we certainly deserve the three points.
"This club is about success. Seven days ago I was sitting here really stung and hurt (after being knocked out the Scottish Cup) as we'd missed a big opportunity.
"But in terms of the league I can't ask for any more. The consistency levels have been incredible."
RANGERS V CELTIC PLAYER RATINGS
Allan McGregor: Yet another vital Old Firm intervention as he tipped Mohamed Elyounoussi's strike onto the crossbar. 7
James Tavernier: The skipper's deliveries were hit and miss at times but another big shift on just his third game back from injury. 7
Connor Goldson: Rangers Mr Dependable just never lets Steven Gerrard down. Towered over Odsonne Edouard in the air. 7
Jack Simpson: Had to tread carefully after picking up a harsh first-half booking but that was no excuse for allowing Kristoffer Ajer a free header at Celtic's goal. Looked nervy in closing stages. 5
Borna Barisic: Provided beauty of a cross for Kemar Roofe's second goal. Worrying signs for Steven Gerrard when the Croat called for a stretcher late on but thankfully walked off under his own steam. 7
Glen Kamara: Another afternoon where he gave Celtic's midfield the run around with his dips and faints of the shoulder. Tired late on but the game was already won. 7
Steven Davis: Classy on the ball but also did the dirty work, like his vital last-gasp tackle on Edouard just before the break. 8
Joe Aribo: Not quite as influential as he was in the teams' Scottish Cup meeting but played a big role in the opener with his cut-back for Ryan Kent. 6
Kemar Roofe: The former Leeds ace is something of an enigma but there was no doubting the quality of his two finishes as Rangers ran up their biggest derby win since 2007. 8
Ryan Kent: Simply unplayable. Roofe may steal the headlines with his double but the £7million man was the star of the show. Celtic just could not get near him. 9
Alfredo Morelos: Should have tucked home from great Tavernier cross but made up for it as he stuck the ball through Scott Brown's leg before flashing Gers' second beyond Bain. 8
Substitutes: Jermain Defoe came on to score his first derby goal while Scott Wright and Ianis Hagi added some energy in the closing stages. 7
Scott Bain: Made a couple of decent saves as Celtic opened up but got nowhere near stopping Rangers' four goals. 6
Jonjoe Kenny: Did enough to put off Morelos scoring early but certain to be back on his way back to Everton after another uninspiring display. 6
Stephen Welsh: Certainly not the worst performer in green and white but a bruising day ended with the young Celt red faced as he was turned inside out by Defoe. 6
Kristoffer Ajer: Led a one-man resistance at times with his forward charges but there is no defending his decision to turn his back as Morelos took aim for number two. 6
Greg Taylor: The left-back tried hard to get forward and put across a couple of decent deliveries that deserved to find a taker. 6
Scott Brown: Was looking to bow out on a high after 14 years and 44 derby clashes but instead it was one final dose of indignity as Morelos nutmegged him before rifling home. Replaced when Gers went three-up. 5
Callum McGregor: Harshly booked for trip on Kent but should have known better than to dive in on Kamara just three minutes later. 5
James Forrest: Wasted a great chance to level just before half-time but looked well short of fitness on his latest return from injury. 6
David Turnbull: Another who passed up a golden opportunity to spark a fightback with his wayward header. Lively on the ball but needs to be more clinical. 6
Mohamed Elyounoussi: Might have fired Celtic in front had perennial thorn in Celtic's side Allan McGregor not tipped his shot against the bar. 7
Odsonne Edouard: Another hot and cold display. Scored his 22nd goal of the season but there were times where the Frenchman looked barely bothered. 6
Substitutes Ryan Christie, Mikey Johnstone and Ismaila Sorro were all introduced but could not turn the game around. 5
The Scottish Premiership: Rangers (2) 4 Celtic (1) 1
Rangers: McGregor,Tavernier,Goldson,Simpson,Barisic (Wright 79),
Kamara,Davis,Aribo,Kent,Roofe (Defoe 86),Morelos (Hagi 84).
Subs Not Used: Itten,Stewart,McLaughlin,King.
Goals: Roofe 26,Morelos 33,Roofe 57,Defoe 90.
Celtic: Bain,Kenny,Welsh,Ajer,Taylor,Brown (Soro 60),McGregor,
Forrest (Christie 60),Turnbull,Elyounoussi,
Edouard (Johnston 75).
Subs Not Used: Barkas,Bitton,Griffiths,Ajeti,Ralston,Laxalt.
Sent Off: McGregor (26).
Goals: Edouard 30.
Ref: Nick Walsh (Scotland).
SCOTTISH PREMIERSHIP TABLE
P W D L F A Pts
Rangers 36 30 6 0 85 13 96
Celtic 36 21 10 5 74 29 73
Hibernian 36 17 8 11 47 35 59
Aberdeen 36 15 11 10 36 33 56
St Johnstone 36 11 11 14 36 42 44
Livingston 36 12 8 16 42 51 44
Motherwell 36 12 8 16 36 51 44
St Mirren 36 11 10 15 34 42 43
Dundee Utd 36 10 12 14 30 48 42
Ross County 36 9 6 21 31 64 33
Kilmarnock 36 9 5 22 38 51 32
Hamilton 36 7 9 20 33 63 30