Celtic have beaten Rangers at Ibrox to open up a six-point lead at the top of the Premiership with six games left to play.
Aaron Ramsey had given the hosts an early lead at Ibrox but Tom Rogic hit the equaliser for Celtic minutes later before Cameron Carter-Vickers scored what would turn out to be the winner and a crucial goal in the title race.
Rangers were ahead within three minutes. Ryan Kent found space on the left and played a low cross into the box, picking out Ramsey, who was perfectly placed to finish with his left foot.
The Ibrox side poured forward after going ahead and had two half-chances with a start reminiscent of Celtic’s explosive first half in the last derby. But after being on the back foot, Celtic levelled quickly.
After Jota had found his path up the right flank blocked by Bassey, the ball was worked to Callum McGregor and the midfielder’s determined run into the box allowed him to create an opening. Tom Rogic had a shot blocked, Reo Hatate had an effort from outside the box and Allan McGregor could only palm it back in front of Rogic, who snapped up the chance to put the ball in the back of the net.
Both sides settled after the frantic start but there was still plenty of intent from both. Connor Goldson was forced to header over his own bar to deal with a dangerous Jota cross, while Greg Taylor had to be quick to steal the ball from Joe Aribo after the Rangers attacker found himself with the ball at the edge of the penalty area.
On 35 minutes, Celtic had a golden opportunity. Juranovic played the ball from deep and Maeda evaded James Tavernier and tried to round McGregor on the edge of the box. The Rangers keeper got a hand to push the ball away but Rogic pounced on it and took a shot that Goldson blocked with his keeper stranded.
With three minutes left until half-time, Celtic took the lead. The first yellow card of the match had been shown to John Lundstram after he clattered Giakoumakis 30 yards from goal. Jota swung in the free kick and it wasn’t dealt with by the Rangers defence, the ball falling to Carter-Vickers, who thumped a left-footed shot into the back of the net.
The second half was delayed as ground staff cleared broken glass that had been thrown into the Celtic penalty area.
After the restart, Rangers were on the front foot as they chased an equaliser but despite possession in the final third they were struggling to create clear-cut chances.
Both sides made changes just after the hour mark, with Celtic switching our the tiring Hatate and Rogic for Matt O’Riley and Nir Bitton. Rangers looked to brighten up their attack with Scott Arfield and Fashion Sakala replacing Ramsey and Ryan Jack.
The bite hadn’t left the game and Giakoumakis and Carter-Vickers were booked in quick succession for late challenges, with both sides looking to establish dominance.
Lundstram saw a low drive from distance held by Hart but shots on goal were few and far between. Sustained Rangers attack then saw several crosses cleared by Celtic as they defended their advantage. Anthony Ralston came on for Greg Taylor after the full-back took a knock.
Hart was pressed into action again, at full stretch to palm a low Sakala drive away, as Rangers continued to push for the goal they needed. And Celtic were forced into a further change when O’Riley had to come off and was replaced by David Turnbull. Liel Abad was swapped in for Jota at the same time.
A rare foray upfield saw Giakoumakis fire a shot of target but Rangers were soon on the attack again and the Greek striker popped up in his own box to clear a cross from the left.
With ten minutes to go, Celtic would have wrapped up three points if not for Allan McGregor. An attack on the right saw the ball break to Abada unmarked on the edge of the box. His well-struck shot was turned over the bar by the Rangers goalkeeper when it seemed set to hit the back of the net.
A pattern had emerged, with Rangers camped out around the Celtic box, the visitors defending capably and then springing an occasional counter. Roofe fired over the bar when he got on the end of a Goldson cross in one such spell of possession for the hosts.
Goldson was deployed as an auxiliary striker as Rangers threw everything forward in chase of an equaliser, and the announcement of five added minutes raised the volume of the home support.
The home side couldn’t find a way through the resolute Celtic defence and the final whistle from Willie Collum left a six-point gap between the sides and Rangers with everything to do to successfully defend the title.
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