20/04/2024

Celtic FC Manager, Ange Postecoglou, secured his first win against rivals Rangers. SOURCE: Celtic Fc

Led by his Japanese stars, Ange Postecoglou's Celtic scored their first win in seven attempts in the Old Firm Derby, lifting his side to the top of the Scottish Premier League table

Few sporting rivalries have as much global significance while remaining entrenched to their locality as the Old Firm derby.

Steeped in hundreds of years of political, religious, and geographical feuds, the hatred between fans of Celtic FC and Rangers FC leaves other European football rivalries in its wake.

One can only imagine the pressure faced by those players and managers foolhardy enough to subject themselves to the fandom of each respective club.

On this occasion, the ever-stoic Ange Postecoglou was up to the task, leading the hoops to victory over their bitter rivals.

Since taking up the mantle as Celtic manager in June of last year, Postecoglou has been largely commended for his positive start to the role, particularly following Celtic’s recent silverware in the Scottish League Cup.

Initially, the appointment was questioned by many Glaswegians loyal to the bhoys and the only black mark against the Australian’s first managerial campaign in Scotland was the loss his side suffered to Rangers earlier this season away from home.

Ange’s men came into this frigid cold February evening two points behind last season’s Scottish champions – but the seeds for success were planted weeks before this contest kicked off.

Celtic’s form before the match was strong – four consecutive league victories – and with Rangers dropping points twice in its first three games of the new year, the home side’s recent consistency suggested it was poised to level the season’s tie with its rivals at one apiece.

From the outset, it was clear one team came better prepared than the other. Immediately following the first whistle, Celtic was encroaching into Rangers’ defensive half and it took just three minutes for the visitor’s defence to falter.

Celtic’s new star Reo Hatate scored a brace in his Old Firm debut. SOURCE: Celtic FC

Reo Hatate made it two goals in as many appearances for the famous green and white after arriving from the J-League in January, further highlighting Postecoglou’s uncanny ability to recruit impactful players from his former league. Hatate’s two countrymen at Celtic, Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda, have both been prolific since arriving in December 2021 and January of this year respectively.

At 1-0 and with a chorus of home fans in full voice, Celtic didn’t rest on its laurels, relentlessly attacking Rangers’ seemingly awestruck defence.

Liel Abada’s creativity on the right-wing allowed Celtic to penetrate its opponents box at will, creating chances and forcing corners with ease.

It took four incredible saves in a quarter of an hour from Rangers’ goalkeeper, Allen McGregor, to keep the visitors alive.

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The return of Celtic’s captain, Callum McGregor, was warmly welcomed by those at Celtic Park and the veteran made his presence known from the outset, controlling the game and setting the tone which was matched by his teammates.

Rangers managed just two meaningful shots in the first half and neither possessed nearly enough conviction to trouble former England international, Joe Hart. A creative through ball from Rangers’ Joe Aribo almost resulted in an unlikely goal for the visitors, but the pass was heavy and Hart swallowed it up accordingly.

However, despite the hoop’s regular forays forward, approaching the main break they appeared set to be restricted to just a one-goal lead, to the credit of a mighty first half from McGregor in goal for Rangers.

Then Hatate found himself in space once more.

A second scorching strike from outside the box was dispatched into the bottom corner by the Japanese import, earning himself a first-half brace. To add Rangers’ dismay, the final five minutes of the half saw the party at Celtic Park truly commence.

On the stroke of half-time, Abada found himself on the end of a cross and made no mistake. The Israel international put a third goal past McGregor to make the score at the break more reflective of the home side’s dominance.

The second 45 minutes were a formality.  

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst made three changes ahead of the game commencing but they were of little consequence.

With a 3 – 0 lead, Celtic simply had to keep Rangers honest. Striker Kemar Roofe threatened for the away side but center-half Cameron Carter-Vickers was up to the task in defence.

The match ended 3 – 0 in favour of Celtic. The result has significant ramifications for the Scottish Premier League title race, putting hoops a solitary point clear of Rangers and at the top of the table for the first time in months.

With plenty of football to play, the title race is far from over, however, with its Japanese imports in full flight and Ange’s managerial mind operating better than ever, Celtic fans could be forgiven for daring to dream.

The victory was the club’s first Old Firm win from its past seven match-ups, marking a significant milestone for Postecoglou to have overcome.  

Rangers’ next league match comes at home against Hearts on Sunday while Celtic will face Motherwall away from home on Sunday as well, in a bid to make it six league wins in a row.

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