The 29th of December is becoming a date that Rangers fans are very much a fan of. In 2018, we got our first league win against Celtic in a number of years, a huge moment for fans around the world. Fast forward a year, and once again we best our Old Firm foes, but this time we do it on their patch. This day absolutely trumps the previous seasons’ for a number of reasons. We wanted to get revenge for the League Cup final defeat at the start of the month. We wanted to get our first victory at Parkhead for 9 years. And we played excellent football and were clear and deserved winners of a game filled with controversy. This was a game that had pretty much everything, but it was our boys who had the balls to get the job done and our small group of fans present to witness the triumph will hold their head high and tell their friends “I was there.”
Allan McGregor – 9
My mind wandered back to a spring evening in 2008, where Allan McGregor saved a penalty at Parkhead despite suffering an ankle injury that ultimately ruled him out for the rest of the campaign. This thought came to mind after Celtic were awarded a penalty, and I had a confidence that McGregor was going to repeat his heroics once again, and lo, he did! It wasn’t the worst of penalties taken, but Allan guessed right and parried it away, this set a huge tone for the side on the day. He is unlucky that their goal takes a wicked deflection (off the hand of Eduoard I might add) but he makes some important stops in the second half to help the team secure victory.
James Tavernier – 8
I promise that Adam (who was one of those fans at the game) has not paid me to say this, because there wouldn’t be any need to. Tavernier has become an excellent defender. There were a few occasions where they had possession of the ball on the edge of the area and Tav, whether it be a tackle or standing his ground, would help see that attack fade out. Top performance for a man who has suffered a lot of heartache on this ground and, more than any of his teammates, deserved a day like this.
Connor Goldson – 8
Rock solid defending, making their star striker look ordinary at best. Was winning all of his tackles, resolute when required, and was holding his chest high, looking like a leader at the back. He should feel incredibly proud of his game here.
Nikola Katic – 9
We are talking here about an Old Firm match winner. No matter what else happens to him in his career at Rangers and beyond, it is highly likely that he will most fondly be remembered for this game. It could very well have gone differently after it was he who conceded the penalty for tugging the shirt of the Celtic defender. Of course, Allan McGregor does what he does, and it’s fitting that Katic was first to react and knock the ball behind for a corner, celebrating like he had scored a goal in the process. Considering he picked up a booking for his foul in the area, he does so well to keep his composure on such a stage and not concede any silly fouls and risk a second yellow. What’s more, he is always a threat from set pieces, and he rose to smash the ball home in the 56th minute with a goal that looked as much a Cristiano Ronaldo header than a Niko Katic one. He did a brilliant job at both ends of the park, a wonderful game.
Borna Barisic – 9 – Man of the Match
You would not find many, let’s be honest, any Rangers fan suggesting that Borna Barisic would put in a Man of the Match performance in an Old Firm win at Parkhead. Believe it. First of all, defensively, gave their right hand side little joy at all, job done. Now to the fun stuff. His pass to Kent for goal one is so clever as he could have been tempted to swing a cross in as that’s what he is used to. Simple, sensible, and well weighted. He is also excellent a delivering corners, as he did with the second goal for us. This ball could not have been placed any better, and it never seems to matter if it is an in-swinging or out-swinger delivery, it always seems to work. The fact he is demanding the heads stay up after we conceded as well tells us that he absolutely wants this now, he wants success and he wants to be a crucial part of it.
Ryan Jack – 6
On a day where so many of our players put in magnificent displays, the one player who you would have put your money on to have a top game turned out to be a weak link for the side. He lost the ball far too often for us in the first half, and his odd choice of challenge in our defensive third led to their goal. Things calmed down in the second half at least, but there wasn’t a thundering tackle to get the team going, no smart passing. It was a performance similar to that of Aberdeen away, the occasion perhaps got to him more than he thought it would.
Steven Davis – 8
I have played Football Manager many a time over the years. I like to think that I’m adaptable with my tactics, but some things I always keep the same. One of those things is having a man on each post when defending corners. It saved me a good few times, and this tactic saved us conceding two goals in this tie, and thanks to Steven Davis for being there. It should never not be a thing to have someone protecting those areas of the goal at set pieces. Let’s not put his game solely down to these moments, he showed us why we were right to be pleased to see him back on the field prior to the day itself. Calm, composed, but with the energy of a man who wants to one this game, yet done so in a classy way. Compare Steven Davis to their captain, both on and off the field, and you understand why we are just better.
Glen Kamara – 7
Fully expected him to feature in this role and play like he does in big games and, he did. If you’re watching a game live, clock the amount of times you find yourself saying “Good, Glen” and that usually comes with a move that retains possession. Energetic, supportive of Barisic, and maybe can feel hard done by that he was taken off as opposed to others in the side who maybe needed the sub more.
Joe Aribo – 7
He is a really good out ball to have. Is capable of winning an aerial duel, but has a fantastic touch and can bring the ball down on his foot really well. Had we had a more competent ref he could well have won a penalty for us right before we got our winning goal, but he played a really good game without necessarily doing anything that made a big impact on it.
Alfredo Morelos – 7
Through out Scotland, the narrative has been set that once again Alfredo Morelos failed to score against Celtic and he got sent off and he’s a thug and this and that and whatever. Luckily, at Heart and Hand, we don’t go for such sensationalist and xenophobic bullshit. Alfredo played very well, working their two defenders into a huge sweat, never giving them a chance to take breathe. Was very unlucky to not find the net early in the second half, and you would be tempted to say that goes in had the opponent been anyone else. But he would always chase down balls, attempt shots from different angles (he never hides even when things aren’t going his way when it comes to the big games) and won each of the many individual battles he had on the field. Is the sending off fair? Yes. He did dive, he didn’t need to, and considering he was on a booking he should have known that was a risk. But, as he rightly gestured to their support as he left the field, the game was over anyway.
Ryan Kent – 9
A man for the biggest of occasions. A man who would play against them every single day if he could. A man who stepped up to the plate with a big goal in the first half. And what a goal this was as well. Smart play to hang back his run rather than burst into the area, and to hit the shot first time and use the defender as a barrier to curl the ball round to find a corner of the goal that made the keepers job impossible, makes this goal a classic. And as far as the rest of his game was concerned, he justified the reason why they are scared of him. Both going forward and tracking back, he made that £7.5m fee look sensible.
Scott Arfield – 7
His introduction to the game was not surprising, the fact that he came on as a midfielder maybe was. What was never in doubt was the energy he would add to the side, and this did help us see at the game at the end.
George Edmundson – 6
Brought on right at the end to add a physical presence, very little to actually do in the end though, but he featured and I’m sure he will never forget the experience.