Celtic 1-0 Rangers: Olivier Ntcham seals Old Firm victory
Brendan Rodgers gets better of Steven Gerrard in Celtic Park showdown
By Charles Paterson at Celtic Park
Last Updated: 03/09/18 12:34am
Olivier Ntcham's second-half goal gave Celtic a 1-0 victory in the first Old Firm game of the season, as Brendan Rodgers came out on top and inflicted Steven Gerrard's first defeat as Rangers manager.
Brendan Rodgers: Ntcham finished a clinical counter-attack (62) by firing past Allan McGregor - who had previously kept his team in the game with a string of saves - as Celtic moved back into second place in the Scottish Premiership, and maintained their recent dominance of Scottish football's showpiece fixture.
The hosts had vast amounts of pressure and virtually all of the chances, hitting the crossbar three times, but only had Ntcham's goal to show for their efforts.
Rangers improved late on and Alfredo Morelos had their best opportunity, but he shot straight at Craig Gordon, and Gerrard - whose 12-match unbeaten run comes to an end - will be disappointed his team did not put more pressure on their rivals.
Celtic: Gordon (6), Lustig (6), Boyata (8), Ajer (6), Tierney (7), Ntcham (8), Brown (7), Forrest (7), Rogic (6), McGregor (7), Edouard (6).
Subs: Griffiths (7), Christie (6), Sinclair (n/a).
Rangers: McGregor, (8) Tavernier (6), Katic (6), Goldson (7), Barisic (6), Jack (6), Ejaria (6), Kent (6), Arfield (6), Lafferty (6), Morelos (6).
Subs: Candeias (n/a), Middleton (n/a).
Man of the match: Olivier Ntcham
The build-up had been even more intriguing than usual, considering the narrative of the former Liverpool manager going head-to-head against his captain at Anfield. Rodgers had gone 11 derbies without defeat as Celtic manager, while Rangers had not won at Celtic Park for nearly eight years.
With only 800 tickets following a dispute between the clubs over allocations, the Rangers fans were drowned out by their rivals amid a cacophony of noise. For the most part, their team were similarly under the cosh, as Celtic shrugged off the deadline-day departure of Moussa Dembele and took a grip on possession. Referee Willie Collum was involved early on, booking Celtic captain Scott Brown after he floored Kyle Lafferty.
Odsonne Edouard returned to the Celtic line-up after a hamstring injury, while James Forrest and Tom Rogic also returned.
Steven Gerrard handed six players a first Old Firm start – Connor Goldson, Nikola Katic, Borna Barisic, Ovie Ejaria, Ryan Kent and Scott Arfield.
Rangers had Lafferty playing from the left, trying to support Morelos when in possession, but the balance of play was firmly with the champions. After 24 minutes Callum McGregor's dangerous free-kick was punched clear by Allan McGregor, but Celtic were irate that the Rangers goalkeeper appeared to kick out at Kris Ajer as the ball was cleared. The referee and his assistants failed to spot the incident, but Celtic were cranking up the momentum.
A succession of corners saw Rangers camped inside their own six-yard box, before James Forrest collected a clearance 30 yards out and smacked a wonderful volley which clipped the top of the crossbar. Moments later, from another corner, Mikael Lustig's header struck the bar, but Rangers scrambled it clear.
The Rangers goalkeeper stood up tall again on 39 minutes, when Edouard was unmarked with a clear sight of goal, but the point-blank header was straight at McGregor who saved well. The sides went into the break level, despite Celtic having 75 per cent possession during the half.
Celtic were denied again by the crossbar - and McGregor - on 49 minutes, as he got a hand to Ntcham's low drive, deflecting it upwards onto the frame of the goal. The momentum towards the Rangers goal was relentless; a Dedryck Boyata header was tipped behind, before McGregor punched another dangerous cross away with three Celtic players on top of him.
The visitors struggled to stem the tide, with Morelos virtually anonymous, yet it was from a rare Rangers attack that Celtic scored after 62 minutes - though Gerrard was unhappy at what he saw as a foul on Ryan Jack in the build-up.
Tom Rogic burst away on a counter-attack, with Jack sprawling in his wake and found Edouard, who in turn fed in Forrest on the right in the box. The Scotland winger could have shot, but opted to pass across the six-yard box to the unmarked Ntcham, who swept the ball into the net. Gerrard protested to Collum, but to no avail.
It was no more than Celtic deserved for their dominance and creativity; three minutes later Lustig nearly made it 2-0 as his glancing header from a corner went just wide, with McGregor beaten.
Rangers finally created a clear opening, as Morelos found space in the box, but his shot was straight at Gordon. It was a rare chance, and a costly miss by the Colombian, who has now failed to score in six games against Celtic.
Griffiths and Ryan Christie were introduced by Rodgers, as Celtic looked to finish the game as a contest, and on 84 minutes they were awarded a free-kick inches outside the penalty box, when Christie went down under Connor Goldson's challenge. The Rangers defender was booked, and Griffiths' powerful drive was beaten away by McGregor.
Rangers mounted some late pressure, but Celtic's defence, marshalled excellently by the dominant Boyata, comfortably dealt with the test to ensure they go into the international break four points clear of Rangers, and three points behind league leaders Hearts.
Brendan Rodgers: "We moved the ball well, hit the bar three times and McGregor made a few outstanding saves which makes the scoreline as it is, but we knew we had to be concentrated.
"Gerrard has done a good job going in there. They are a threat but I'm really pleased with the clean sheet today."
Steven Gerrard: "I thought we played better second-half. We kept the ball better and we made passes and created a few decent openings. With a little more quality we could've got a goal.
"If we'd have lost the game today with a moment of class or brilliance from Celtic I'd have held my hands up, but the referee's cost us for sure."
Man of the match - Olivier Ntcham
Ntcham impressed during Celtic's 5-0 dismantling of Rangers back in April, and this was every bit as eye-catching as he capped a performance full of energy by finishing off a swift team move to clinch the points.
The 22-year-old controlled proceedings alongside team-mate Scott Brown in midfield, winning the ball back and setting up attacks as Celtic were rewarded for their constant probing just past the hour-mark.
Brown said of Ntcham's display: "Olivier seems to get better and better. He's composed on the ball and he's got a goal in him as well, and that's what makes him a top-quality player."