Rangers 3-1 Celtic

Last updated : 21 August 2005 By Kevin Smith
Celtic were defeated 3-1 in the first Old Firm game of the season, at Ibrox yesterday. Alan Thompson was sent off after 23 minutes, a decision which totally changed the match. Rangers went two goals up through Dado Prso and Thomas Buffell before Shaun Maloney pulled a late goal back from the penalty spot. Nacho Novo added Rangers' third only minutes later, also from a penalty.

Gordon Strachan opted to start with Craig Beattie partnering John Hartson up-front, a decision which was welcomed by the travelling Celtic supporters, packed into the uncomfortable Broomloan Stand. Apart from that change, the team were the same as last week.

Kick off was delayed fifteen minutes due to traffic delays and as the teams emerged it was a beautiful day, spoiled only by the bitterness of the Rangers supporters, who polluted the air with songs attacking Catholics.

In the opening stages, Celtic looked very calm and comfortable, and were by far the better side. John Hartson was booked for an act of sheer stupidity after only five minutes, when he persisted in mouthing off at referee Stuart Dougal. From then on, Hartson seemed invisible, and never won a solitary high ball against Marvin Andrews. The physical side of the game favours Hartson but after receiving a booking so early on, his threat was limited.

In the 23rd minute, Nacho Novo set off on a run from inside his own half. Alan Thompson lunged into the Spaniard from a side angle - a needless challenge which ached of frustration. Replays showed that Bobo Balde was approaching Novo from ahead and there was no need at all for Thompson to make the tackle. As Thompson offered an apologetic handshake, he was unbelievably shown a red card.

Now everyone who watched the game knows, deep down, that the tackle never warranted a sending off. It was Thompson's first challenge of the game, it was not preventing a goalscoring opportunity and a yellow card would have been sufficient punishment. To order him off was a terrible decision by Dougal.

However, Thompson must be seriously looked at. I, along with many other fans, are quickly losing patience with this guy. Yesterday was the third time he has been sent off at Ibrox, which is just not good enough. For too long now he has offerred very little to the Celtic team and his resulting suspension will hopefully do him good.

After the sending off Rangers clearly got a massive boost. This was evident as the marching drums in the Govan Stand began to play away like it was July all over again.

Celts played well for the remainder of the first half, and Bobo Balde should have scored with a header. However, Dado Prso put Rangers in front with a great strike, but one which should have been prevented by Paul Telfer.

In the second half, Rangers brough on Peter Lovenkrands for Alex Rae as Rangers began to make their extra man count. Craig Beattie was dropped back into midfield, which was unfortunate for the youngster, as he had been playing well up-front.

Thomas Buffell added Rangers' second and there were fears that we could have been onto a slaughtering. Indeed, if Lovenkrands had finished better on a couple of occassions, Rangers could have been 4-0 up with plenty time left for more.

Shunsuke Nakamura was replaced by Shaun Maloney and John Hartson later changed for Maciej Zurawski. Nakamura didn't have the best of afternoons but the game seemed to pass him by. He came close with a free kick in the first half, but would have done better if Thompson had remained on the park.

Celtic played out the rest of the game trying not to lose any more goals, but Rangers' extra man was showing.

Shaun Maloney played very well and tried hard when he came on. He won a penalty with five minutes to go, which he converted himself. There was hope but it was dashed when Stuart Dougal awarded Rangers a penalty only a minute later, when Dado Prso appeared to fall flat on his arse inside the Celtic area. Novo scored to make it 3-1.

At the end of the match, Neil Lennon appreared to make a comment towards Dougal, and was red carded. Lennon reacted in a child like manner and barged into the referee. He will now face a long suspension.

All in all it was a bad day but we cannot possibly judge the two sides on the back of yesterday's game. If Thompson had stayed on the pitch it would have all been so different and the game was spoiled by the bias shown towards Rangers by Stuart Dougal.

Rangers are now two points ahead of us in the title race, but there will be plenty of points dropped. They have still to come to Celtic Park, and if we can get a decent referee we will be more than capable of beating them.

Come On The Hoops Man Of The Match:  Mo Camara