After Celtic’s 1-0 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday, Celtic will need to look at Rangers as real title challengers whether some want to believe it or not.
Here are five talking points from the derby:
Hooked at half-time Lustig must surely be on his way out of Celtic now. He has been the side’s weakest link for nearly two seasons now and was rightly substituted at half-time after his horror show against Ryan Kent – in the run-up to Rangers’ only goal of the game.
A great servant to Celtic over the years but he has had his day at the club and it is time for him to be shown the exit door as I mentioned in a piece earlier this month.
He has been superb for Celtic leading them to back to back trebles, but today he got it all horribly wrong as he tinkered with the team as he did against Hibernian several weeks ago – when we lost 2-0 at Easter Road.
His selection of Mikey Johnston ahead of Odsonne Edouard was puzzling to say the least, as was playing Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown in midfield with Callum McGregor at left back – despite the latter being the best central midfielder at the club.
Forced into bringing on Ajer for the injured Benkovic it prevented Rodgers from changing things in midfield which was being overrun time and again by Rangers’ play.
Rodgers will now be looking at the players at his disposal and Peter Lawwell to change things up and strengthen with several of his key players now looking past it.
Overall Celtic looked inept and second best throughout. Craig Gordon was the star man for Celtic – despite having his own horror moments [as per usual when the ball was at his feet] along with his partner in crime Dedryck Boyata.
Steven Gerrard talked about bringing his A game to the match against Celtic today and they duly delivered albeit failed to punish Celtic with the number of chances they created and were gifted by Celtic’s woeful back line.
Callum McGregor showed what he could have done for Celtic if he was playing in his actual central midfield position when he broke through the Rangers defence to fire home into the Rangers goal, but while it was rightfully ruled offside albeit marginal, his threat from midfield could have been a game changer.
Celtic remain top of the table going into the new year – but only on goal difference – as their away form drags them down. On the road Celtic have lost four times, drawn three and won three – this is in stark contrast to their home form which is nine games won out of nine.
Rodgers must now go to Peter Lawwell to strengthen a side that looks jaded, devoid of creativity and in need of quality. The lack of summer signings has finally come back to bite Rodgers and Celtic on the ass.
For the most part, he had a reasonable game and let it flow, but his failure to send Alfredo Morelos off – let alone not book him – for a clear kick out at Scott Brown after just four minutes was poor. His refusal to send Morelos off for stamping on Anthony Ralston in the second half was even worse and after a third incident of Morelos hitting a Celtic player with a punch to the groin – there was no hiding his blatant refusal to punish Rangers’ temperamental striker for anything he did in the game today.
Morelos never even got booked throughout the 90 minutes🤔 pic.twitter.com/6Kpor7oWi2
— Tam Sellics son (@gibbogibby1) December 29, 2018
But other than that all the failings lay at Celtic’s and Brendan Rodgers’ door and not at Beaton’s – albeit the game could have been very different if Morelos had been given his marching orders early on.
Scott Brown and Olivier Ntcham must have thought the game was kicking off at 3pm as they failed to turn up for this game. Both looked off the pace, lacking any desire or fight in them to take the game to Rangers.
They were overrun time and again as they chased Rangers’ midfield. Scott Brown who looked as if his time at Celtic was up last month played as if he had made his mind up about the move to Australia and was dreaming of spending his days on the beaches of Oz. As for Ntcham, he has been rotten all season long and looked to have been on his way out at the same time as Dembele only to remain at the club.
Whether he is happy at Celtic or not in the wake of Dembele’s departure is another matter entirely, but as a French Under-21 international you must be asking what does he have on the French coach to select him time and again. I’d even go as far in saying that Nir Bitton brings more to the team than the Frenchman.
Rodgers’ decision to break up the Scott Brown and Callum McGregor partnership to cover left back proved a costly mistake as it nullified the threat that McGregor provides every game he plays in for Celtic.
I cannot see this midfield partnership being played again by Rodgers barring a calamitous injury list.
As for the wingers Scott Sinclair and James Forrest…. neither were in the game with Forrest well marshalled by the fired up and dogged Andy Halliday who in all honesty was superb throughout the game. Scott Sinclair on the left was ineffective and had a touch like a slippery fish. Despite scoring a hat-trick on Boxing Day against Aberdeen it looked as if he had his one an only good game of the season and went back to playing worse than a ‘man down’. His performance against Aberdeen looked as if he had turned the corner, but now we can quite clearly see he was merely going round a roundabout before carrying on down the same road of mediocrity.
What can you say about Rangers and their performance today? It was their best of this season and of their history since Charles Green founded the club from the assets of the old Rangers that was liquidated in 2012.
It was the first time they had beaten Celtic since the 2016 Scottish Cup Final when they won 5-4 on penalties, and the first time they beat Celtic in 90 minutes across all competitions.
In the run-up to the game, Steven Gerrard berated his players over their recent performances and it looked to have worked perfectly as they did indeed bring their A-game. Albeit how much of that was helped by Celtic’s inability to do the basics right throughout?
Only one side deserved to win the game today and Rangers did just that. Question marks still remain over their main striker Alfredo Morelos – his lack of goals in the big games and his temperament – but you cannot argue with his work rate as he proved to be a thorn in the side of the Celtic defence all day long.