Rangers romp in paradise

Last updated : 31 August 2008 By Southside Johnny
Attendance 58,595

The natural order of Scottish Football has been restored as Rangers outclassed Celtic in the opening 'Old Firm' game of the new campaign at Parkhead this afternoon, defeating their great rivals 4-2 - a scoreline that flattered the home side to a considerable degree.

Kenny Miller, back on the ground of his former club, provided the perfect answer to his many doubters with two goals - but it was the class of Pedro Mendes that stood apart as the outstanding talent afield.

This was sweet revenge for the Light Blues, underlining what everyone knew all too well last season - that Celtic were false champions, only so crowned because of Rangers' crippling backlog of games and a manipulation of the fixture list that can only be described as blatant cheating.

Manager Walter Smith made two changes from Aberdeen with Charlie Adam and Daniel Cousin replacing Kris Boyd and Nacho Novo. New signing Maurice Edu from Toronto was named as a substitute.

Celtic were first to threaten, Stephen McManus heading just wide from a Shunsuke Nakamura free-kick in seven minutes.

Both sides were out to secure the opening goal - Georgis Samaras testing Allan McGregor with a header that the goalkeeper held on the twenty-minute mark, then sixty seconds later Aidan McGeady saw a 25-yard shot flash just past the post.

Rangers were just as likely to strike as their opponents however - Cousin's volley from a Steve Davis corner flashing just over on the half-hour mark.

The opening goal arrived seven minutes later - and was a stunning creation as a curling pass down the right from Pedro Mendes released Cousin who streaked past Celtic left-back Mark Wilson before rifling a low drive past Artur Boruc into the far corner of the net.

The lead lasted just two minutes however - McGeady's cross being missed by David Weir then miss-kicked by Sasa Papac right into the path of Samaras who buried the ball past McGregor for the equaliser.

1-1 at the interval, it was clear that the next goal would be crucial - and Shaun Maloney almost provided it in 52 minutes with a curling shot from the edge of the box that was inches wide.

Two minutes later - perhaps inevitably - it was Kenny Miller who made it 2-1 with a spectacular volley from a Kevin Thomson cross at the same end as he had scored for the home side two years ago.

Pandemonium ensued as the 'Gers players celebrated in front of the Light Blue legions - and ten minutes later there was even greater joy when Mendes made it 3-1 with a stunning thirty-yard drive from a Steve Davis corner.

Celtic Manager Gordon Strachan made a double substitution in 72 minutes when he introduced Barry Robson and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink in place of Paul Hartley and Samaras - and the former Rangers winger almost made an immediate impact with a driven corner that was headed towards his own goal by Papac only for Davis to nod clear on the line.

The game exploded in controversy three minutes later when Cousin, outstanding throughout, received a second yellow and consequent red for a foul on McManus. It appeared harsh in the extreme - but then this is Celtic Park, of course...

The game had barely restarted when Vennegoor of Hesselink was shown a straight red card by Referee Dougie McDonald for an off-the-ball kick at Kirk Broadfoot. It was poetic justice for the Dutchman, who should have been ordered-off in both 'Old Firm' encounters at Celtic Park on 16 & 27 April.

For some unaccountable reason Broadfoot was yellow-carded, presumably for being kicked...

It was a 'Blue Heaven' by now - and Miller made it 4-1 in 79 minutes when he coolly netted after Boruc had allowed Broadfoot's low cross to slip from his grasp.

Rangers now looked capable of scoring with every attack - and Miller came close to going down in the history books as the first Ranger to score a hat-trick at Parkhead since Willie Johnston 39 years ago when his shot following a Nacho Novo break was beaten out by Boruc.

Deep into injury time Nakamura reduced the deficit with a twenty-yard free-kick to give the scoreline a flattering look for Celtic.

Afterwards a contented Walter Smith reflected:

"I was pleased to win the game. 1-1 at the interval was perhaps a fair reflection of the first-half, but it was hard for Celtic to come back in the second-half. Pedro Mendes has made a difference - he has brought a touch of football to the side. Kenny Miller played well - I don't what more he would need to do to convince any remaining doubters."

CELTIC Boruc; Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Wilson (Hutchinson 84); Nakamura, Hartley (Robson 72), S. Brown, McGeady; Samaras (Vennegoor of Hesselink 72), Maloney
UNUSED SUBS M. Brown, Crosas, Loovens, O'Dea

RANGERS McGregor; Broadfoot, Weir, Bougherra, Papac; Davis, Mendes, Thomson, Adam (Novo 78); Cousin, Miller
UNUSED SUBS Edu, Alexander, Dailly, Lafferty, Aaron, McMillan

REFEREE Dougie McDonald