There’s only one biggest show on earth
By the end of this season, Celtic and Rangers will have clashed 7 times which let’s be honest, is far too much. However, if the remaining matches are as pulsating as the one we had today, strap yourself in for a feast of football.
Celtic were the victors at Ibrox when these clubs last met but Rangers started brightly in that game. They did so again today but the difference was they grabbed the goal their brisk start merited. Jamie Ness had space at the edge of the box when a corner was knocked down to him but he arrowed it into the back of the net with the minimum of fuss. There has been a lot written about Ness of late but he is worthy of the column inches that will be coming his in the next few days.
Rangers were attempting to blow Celtic out of the water and when Davis smashed the ball off the underside of the bar it was looking like there was only one team in the park. However, much like the game last month, Celtic started edging back into it.
Celtic had went close with a couple of chances but it was a deflection that allowed Joe Ledley to grab his second assist at Ibrox as he fed in Kris Commons. Up until Celtic showed an interest in the Scottish internationalist Rangers fans were full of praise for Common’s talents and their judgment was proved right when he swept home the equaliser.
The game seemed to change just before half-time when Naismith was taken down by Celtic keeper Fraser Forster with the inevitable red card shown to the goalie. You have to say that with the way football is these days, it was the right decision. Much like Celtic benefited in midweek, they suffered today, so there shouldn’t be too many complaints about the red card. The striker made the most of it and ensured he would be hit by the keeper but that’s what you do these days.
It does show the nature of football though, there were some brutal challenges in the game, players being taken out of play from behind and very late but the red cards were dished out for technical rules as opposed to harming an opponent. That is football though and the man in the middle had as good a game as you could hope for in these matches.
Stephen Whittaker swept the ball past Lukas Zaluska and with a 2-1 lead at half-time over 10 men; you sensed the Rangers crowd were considering it was job done. That wasn’t quite how it panned out.
It was no surprise to see Rangers sit back and give Celtic possession but the way Celtic moved the ball to create the space was extremely clever and with El Hadji Diouff offering no support to his full back, Mark Wilson was continually running into dangerous positions. On the ball Diouf was very quick-footed and bright but he will need to offer more to his team-mates in this sort of game.
The game was levelled again when Wilson controlled a cross in the box and fed Scott Brown who curled a superb shot into the corner of the net and the Broomloan Road end erupted. Brown had a brief staring contest with Diouff, which earned Brown a booking (again a right decision in the laws and spirit of the game but weak when compared to some of the challenges) and the Cup tie was really up for grabs.
Rangers came close with a couple of balls fizzed across the box that were just out of reach of onrushing players, with Davis being particularly unlucky not to grab a third for Rangers. Celtic were denied with a last-gasp block by Bougherra and then McGregor was in the right place at the right time to deny Samaras….although the keeper didn’t know too much about it – it’ll be rightly regarded as a great stop though.
The numerical advantage that Rangers held was wiped out when Steven Naismith received a second yellow for diving. You could argue that after a dive in the first half and then a crude challenge after his booking that Naismith could have been off before then but he gave the ref no option to send him off. It certainly wasn’t the first time this season the Ayrshire striker went down without any contact and it was very foolish play in believing that Charlie Mulgrew would follow through with his challenge.
There was still time for more controversy when Giorgios Samaras was incorrectly flagged offside when he bore down on goal and Sasa Papac has the same assistant referee to thank for not seeing his sly kick at Charlie Mulgrew when the two were tussling over the ball as Celtic were preparing a strike from the edge of the box.
The last ten minutes were scrappy but the two teams must have been knackered after a day of hard work and effort.
Two red cards, two brilliant goals and 2-2 at Ibrox. The two teams will meet again at Celtic Park this month in the league before the replay is played at the beginning of March.