28 min: Joe Hart tries to clear a bouncing ball with Alfredo Morelos right in front of him, blocking his way. The ball ricochets off the striker and bounces on the byline. Morelos does well to play it back to Sakala, who tees up Ryan Kent. From just outside the Celtic penalty area, he hits the post with a low daisy-cutter. I think Joe Hart might have touched it on to the woodwork.
26 min: Alistair Johnston plays the ball wide to Craig Forrest on the right flank. His pull-back to the edge of the Rangers penalty area is intercepted. Celtic are giving Rangers the runaround here, moving the game from side to side of the pitch and attacking down both wings.
24 min: Greg Taylor has pulled a hamstring, hence his departure. He got little or no sympathy from the Rangers fans, who seemed to think he was time-wasting and jeered accordingly as he received treatment.
23 min: Maeda accelerates down the inside left, leaves James Tavernier in his dust again and drills another low cross into the Rangers penalty area. Connor Goldson intercepts the delivery and Rangers clear.
21 min: Celtic substitution: Josip Juranovic on for Greg Taylor. As the defender limps off, a pitchside microphone picks up the sound of somebody loudly bidding him farewell in a thick Glaswegian accent. “There ye go, Taylor, ye scumbag!!!”
18 min: Kyogo Furuhashi latches on to a ball from deep out by the left touchline but is unable to keep it in play. Celtic left-back Greg Taylor, who has just received treatment for an injury, has gone to ground again. It looks like he’ll have to go off.
17 min: Barisic tries to stand the ball up for the far post after it breaks his way. It’s too high for Sakala, who leaps in tandem with Greg Taylor. Barisic probably should have tried a shot there.
15 min: The home fans are already furious and vent their fury at Borna Barisic as the left-back completely underhits a simple, short pass and loses the ball halfway inside his own half. He gets away with it.
14 min: Calllum McGregor unleashes a low drive from distance which Allan McGregor turns around his upright for a corner. Nothing comes of the set-piece.
13 min: Connor Goldson receives a pass from Allan McGregor and under a high press from Maeda, passes the ball out of play for a Celtic throw-in deep in Rangers territory. The Japanese striker is playing exceptionally well in these early stages.
11 min: Celtic have the early lead but the match has yet to settle into any kind of rhythm. Fashion Sakala lofts a hopeful ball forward but Celtic clear up at the back with a minimum of fuss.
9 min: Maeda tries to turn provider, sending a low cross from the left fizzing through the corridor of uncertainty on the edge of the Rangers six-yard box towards the far post. Allan McGregor is unable to reach out but luckily for him, neither his Celtic namesake Callum.
7 min: It’s an awful start for Rangers, who concede a preposterously sloppy goal. Both Morelos and Tavernier were culpable. Having been stitched up by his team-mate’s dreadful pass, both he and Connor Goldson allowed Maeda to dribble past them before shooting on goal.
GOAL! Rangers 0-1 Celtic (Maeda 5)
Celtic lead! Alfredo Morelos sells James Tavernier short with a blind, under-hit pass and Daizen Maeda pounces. Through on goal with only Allan McGregor to beat, he sidefoots low past the goalkeeper to fire Celtic into an early lead.
4 min: Play is punctuated by a series of throw-ins which slow down the frantic early pace of the game. Oh, hold on …
2 min: Borna Barisic floats a free-kick from halfway inside the Celtic half to the edge of the penalty area. The visitors clear. It’s been a predictably lively start.
1 min: John Lundstram goes down holding his knee after Matt O’Riley leaves one in on the Rangers midfielder as he cleared a ball downfield. He’s fine.
Rangers v Coeltic is go …
1 min: Rangers get the ball rolling on derby day in Glasgow and immediately go on the attack. Ryan Kent gets an early shot away from distance but Joe Hart saves comfortably.
Not long now: The players of Rangers leave their visitors waiting a couple of minutes in the tunnel before emerging from their dressing-room. Both teams assembled, James Tavernier and Callum McGregor lead their respective teams out at the signal of referee Jon Beaton. Tina Turner’s Simply The Best blares out over the PA System and Ibrox is stuffed to the gunnels, with a small crowd of Celtic fans occupying one corner of the ground. Ahead of kick-off, there’s a minute’s silence for the victims of the 1971 Ibrox disaster. It’s well enough observed, but a handful of idiots barrack their way through it.
Ange Postegolou speaks: “We’ve just got to maintain our focus on playing our football,” the Celtic manager tells Sky Sports, after paying solemn tribute to Frank McGarvey and offering his condolences to the former Celtic striker’s family. “Obviously it’s a big game, everyone knows that … a difficult venue and a tough opponent. There’s no better opportunity to test ourselves.
“You can already see changes that [Michael Beale] has made to Celtic. He has the same personnel so he’s limited with what he can do in that regard. It still comes down to us today.”
Michael Beale speaks: “It’s over to the players now,” says the Rangers manager in an interview with Sky Sports. “I feel they’re prepared. Coming in over a month ago there was a lot of uncertainty over injuries and players like that. We seem to have everyone back and available. We’ve got here as best as we could so now it’s over to the players and I’m looking forward to watching the game.
“We have to play on the front foot and we’ve picked an attacking team to do that. We’ve obviously picked Malik [Tillman] and Fashion [Sakala] to do that. We’ve not gone for one or the other because we want to go for the three points. It’s a derby and I want to focus on that rather than any background story over where it takes the league. The most important thing is that we perform for our fans because in the game earlier in the season we didn’t and that’s a big regret for us.”
A day of remembrance at Ibrox
Ahead of kick-off there will be a minute’s silence to remember the 66 victims of the Ibrox disaster which took place on this day in 1971. There will also be tributes to the late Pele, as well as the Celtic legend Frank McGarvey, who passed away yesterday.
Those teams: Alistair Johnston starts for Celtic after his move to the club last month was ratified by the opening of the transfer window. His fellow right-back Josip Juranovic starts on the bench. Midfielder Aaron Mooy makes way for James Forrest and Liel Abada, who scored twice against Rangers in September is a somewhat surprising omission from Celtic’s starting line-up. He has to settle for a place on the bench.
Rangers boss Mick Beale also makes two changes from the side that beat MOtherwell last Wednesday. Glen Kamara and Fashionm Sakala come into midfield in place of Alex Lowry and Ryan Jack. Alfredo Morelos starts up front, while Antonio Colak is on the bench.
Rangers v Celtic line-ups
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Davies, Barisic, Kamara, Lundstram, Tillman, Kent, Sakala, Morelos.
Subs: McLaughlin, Jack, Colak, Sands, Wright, Roofe, Arfield, King, Devine.
Celtic: Hart, Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor, McGregor, Hatate, O’Riley, Forrest, Maeda, Kyogo.
Subs: Bain, Giakoumakis, Abada, Mooy, Jota, Kobayashi, Bernabei, Abildgaard, Juranovic.
Referee: John Beaton
Early team news
Rangers defenders John Souttar and Filip Helander remain long-term absentees, while midfielders Steven Davis and Ianis Hagi are also sidelined indefinitely. Up front, Alfredo Morelos is likely to be fit despite limping out of his side’s recent win over Motherwell with a hamstring problem, but may make way for Antonio Kolak, who is back from injury. Kemar Roofe is also returning to full fitness and may feature on the bench.
In the absence of right-back Andrew Ralston, who is injured, Canada international Alistair Johnston is likely to make his Celtic debut after signing from Montreal Imp, but the Hoops are without suspended midfielder David Turnball and injured winger Sead Haksabanovic.
VAR: Introduced to the Scottish Premiership in October to help referees make fewer errors and hopefully put an end to the often ridiculous conspiracy theories cooked up by more paranoid fans of Scotland’s two biggest teams, it should go without sayimng that Video Assistant Referees have done nothing of the kind. Indeed, if anything, they have only poured more petrol on the conspiratorial fires.
For all the good it will do, ahead of today’s game, Ange Postecoglou has called on the match officials to ensure VAR delays do not disrupt the marquee fixture. Ewan Murray reports …
Scottish Premiership: Rangers v Celtic
With Celtic already nine points clear in the race to the ottish title, Rangers are in desperate need of a win in the first Old Firm match-up of the new year. The two sides meet at Ibrox this afternoon, with Michael Beale taking charge of Rangers in his first Glasgow derby after masterminding four wins from four since taking charge a month ago.
They will need a far better performance than September’s feeble effort at Celtic Park, when Ange Postecoglou’s side ran riot, battering their visitors by four goals without reply. Celtic go into today’s game on the back of 12 consecutive league wins and have dropped just three points this season, the only blot on their copybook a 2-0 defeat at St Mirren in September. Another victory today will surely end to any faint hopes their city rivals might have of reeling them in. Kick-off at Ibrox is at 12.30pm but stay tuned in the meantime for team news and build-up.
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