Gary Hooper was the goal scoring hero as Celtic crushed Rangers by 3 – 0. But in truth every player in the hoops put in a superb performance in a comprehensive victory.
Hooper lined up behind Georgious Samaras in a 4-4-1-1 formation, but the movement of the front two meant they interchanged all game long. Rangers started with a 4-5-1 formation, restoring Jelavic and Naismith and bringing on loan Arsenal youngster Kyle Bartley into midfield.
The opening was frantic and Bartley was the first man into the book after a wild lunge on Scott Brown. But Celtic gradually took control of the midfield and began to create chances.
On 17 minutes Gary Hooper took a pass from Kris Commons and beat David Weir with one excellent touch. He then showed his pace, racing in on goal before calmly slotting the ball beneath McGregor in the Rangers goal.
And ten minutes later Hooper doubled the lead, sliding in at the back post to convert Izaguirre’s excellent left wing cross to send the vast majority of the crowd wild.
Rangers started the second half faster than the home side, but could not make more than one clear chance, when Forster saved Diouf’s attempted lob, and gradually Celtic began to play their passing football once more. Papac had to be quick to clear a Brown header off the line. And a third goal was to come to seal the three points.
Gary Hooper fed Kris Commons after some crisp passing. The winger cut inside Bougherra and left McGregor grasping air with a superb swerving shot from the edge of the box.
Celtic cruised through the rest of the match as the away end of the ground steadily emptied. And in the end it was a comprehensive victory for Neil Lennon’s men.
Gary Hooper was the sponsor’s man of the match for his first half brace and all around fine play. He shaded the excellent Samaras, who led the line superbly, and captain Brown who put in a disciplined performance.
But there were no failures for Celtic, who restricted Rangers to one real shot on target. Sound in defence, solid and inventive in midfield and deadly up front, it was a dominant performance.
The only mystery in this match was how Rangers managed to finish with eleven men on the park. A string of fouls resulted in five bookings, but Bougherra and the odious Diouf were both guilty of several fouls and shows of dissent after their yellow cards.
Steven Davis was allowed to get away with a string of bad tackles without ever seeing a card, while Papac kicked out at a Celtic player after the ball had gone. But it was a weak performance from referee Brines.
Celtic are now eight points clear in the title race and in fine form. Their weary looking opponents were no threat today and with a heavy schedule ahead of them will struggle to keep up.
But for today all the plaudits go to Neil Lennon and his fourteen hooped heroes.