Celtic 3 (Petrov 18, Varga 59, Thompson 83) Rangers 0
There was no New Year joy for Rangers at Celtic Park
this afternoon as the Scottish Champions all but
surrendered their title, going under 0-3 to a Celtic
side whose power and physical strength was just too
much for the Ibrox.
New signing Gavin Rae from Dundee made his debut,
replacing Nuno Capucho, but there was no place for
either Zurab Khizanishvili or Christian Nerlinger.
Celtic pressed from the opening seconds, but Rangers
settled quickly and indeed created the first
half-chance of the game when a Mikel Arteta corner was
headed goalwards by Craig Moore, Shota Arveladze just
failing to make contact with the ball as it flew past
It was Stefan Klos to the rescue three minutes later
however when he beat out Bobo Balde's header from an
Alan Thompson corner.
John Hartson came close in sixteen minutes with a turn
and 25-yard shot that flew just over, but the opening
goal was merely delayed two minutes, a Henrik Larsson
cross finding Stilian Petrov whose diving header was
almost clawed out by Stefan Klos, touching the ball
onto the inside of the post, only for the ball to
trickle along the line strike the other post, and spin
over the line.
Rangers' response was immediate - a Chris Burke cross
in 22 minutes being inches away from the inrushing
Debutant Rae had looked impressive in the opening
stages, but was obliged to exit the scene in 34
minutes suffering a recurrence of his hamstring
injury, being replaced by Michael Mols.
Sixty seconds later a brutal tackle by Chris Sutton on
Mikel Arteta went unpunished by Referee Stuart Dougal,
when without question the Celt should have received a
red card. It was a decision that would have a material
effect on the game, for not only were Celtic allowed
to continue at full strength, Arteta would never again
have the same influence on the play.
Celtic almost added a second in 42 minutes when
Thompson's header from a Didier Agathe cross only just
missed the target.
Rangers restarted on the offensive but a lack of
penetration meant that the powerful Celtic defence was
The home side were much the more direct, almost
doubling their lead in 58 minutes when Klos turned
Larsson's volley from a Thompson free-kick onto a
The second goal was merely delayed however - for from
the resultant corner, again taken by Thompson, Balde's
header at the far post was met by Stanislav Varga who
headed home from point-blank range.
A mountainous task now confronted Rangers, yet within
sixty seconds Chris Burke almost reduced the deficit
with a curling effort from twenty yards.
Rangers had not given up the ghost - Mols seeing a
twenty-yard shot slip inches wide in 63 minutes, then
eight minutes on the Dutchman, sent through by Burke,
saw his effort diverted wide by Balde.
In a last throw of the dice Manager Alex McLeish
replaced Bob Malcolm with Nuno Capucho in 73 minutes,
but victory was sealed for the Parkhead men in 83
minutes when Thompson found the net with a stunning
There was still time for Shota Arveladze to strike the
crossbar from a Ricksen opening, and then a one-two
with Capucho saw the Georgian's drive held by Rab
The die was cast however - and the 3-0 win leaves
Celtic with an eleven-point lead at the halfway stage.
Alex McLeish afterwards claimed:
"We started well, but Celtic are such a massive threat
at set-pieces. There's still a lot to play for, but
Celtic can only throw the League away now. It was
always going to be tough today."
CELTIC Douglas; Agathe, Varga, Balde, McNamara;
Petrov, Lennon, Sutton, Thompson; Larsson, Hartson
UNUSED SUBS Hedman, Maloney, Wallace, Crainey
RANGERS Klos; Ricksen, Moore, Berg, Ball; Burke,
Arteta, Malcolm (Capucho 73), Rae (Mols 34),
UNUSED SUBS Ross, McGregor, Vanoli
REFEREE Stuart Dougal