Goal machine Mark Wilson struck yet again to give Celtic a victory that was more comprehensive than the narrow score line would suggest.
The full back followed up on his shot which was blocked by the head of the unfortunate Sasa Papac to guide home the only goal of a fraught game that saw three red cards shown – all to Rangers’ players.
There is something special about night games at Celtic Park. The floodlights, the atmosphere, it all comes together to create something unique. And a Glasgow derby cup tie to be played to a finish had the fans in good voice from the start.
Celtic were forced to make changes, with Lukasz Zaluska and Ki coming in for the suspended Fraser Forster and Joe Ledley. And Georgious Samaras also replaced Anthony Stokes up front.
Celtic were on the front foot from the start and dominated the first half play, although they created few clear goal scoring chances. Rangers were content to sit back, although their tough tackling saw a growing yellow card count.
And this was to cost them before the break when Whittaker picked up his second yellow to be first into the bath. Diouf, never one to miss out on controversy, picked up a yellow card after a confrontation with the Celtic bench.
Samaras had the best chance of the half but his shot was blocked by McGregor and so it was 0 – 0 at the break.
Celtic again started quickly in the second half and soon got the vital first goal. Wilson’s shot came flush off the head of Papac, knocking the full back into the net where he lay for several minutes before being carried off. And the Celtic man was first to the rebound with a shot that bounced over McGregor and into the net.
Celtic had chances to increase the lead, with Commons and Ki going close with shots, while Samaras hit the post with a low drive. The same player later had a header cleared off the line.
Bougherra was perhaps unlucky to pick up his second yellow late on for a sliding challenge on Commons where he appeared to get some of the ball.
It was well into the five minutes of stoppage time before Rangers had their only attempt at goal in the entire match: a tame Diouf free kick that was easily saved by Zaluska.
Even after the whistle Diouf, it seemed, couldn’t get enough. His dissent about something earned him Rangers ninth yellow card of the night and also their third red.
Celtic played well, although not with the free flowing football of the last match. It was a disciplined and professional performance, two adjectives that could not be ascribed to the visitors.
Biram Kayal; was my man of the match for a performance full of drive, determination and quality. Ki and Brown were not far behind him, although there were no failures in the Celtic eleven.
A trip to Inverness is the prize for Neil Lennon’s men. For Walter Smith the night ensured that his final two visits to Celtic Park as a manager ended in defeat.