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Reports of Celtic’s demise has been greatly exaggerated.

A goal in each half from Paulo Bernardo and Kyogo Furuhashi gave Brendan Rodgers’ side all three points from this afternoon’s meeting with Rangers, with the win taking Celtic eight points clear at the top of the table. James Tavernier pulled one back for Rangers to make for a frantic finale with Rodgers’ side making life interesting for themselves.  They prevailed to take what could be a pivotal victory in the race for the title.

It was a first defeat for Rangers manager Philippe Clement whose side ended the game with ten men. The dismissal of Leon Balogun rubbed salt in the wounds of the Ibrox side. They still have two games in hand to play but it remains to be seen what psychological damage this defeat does to their title aspirations given the confidence they had headed into this game with.

Celtic, though, will feel that this victory was a reminder of the dominance that they have enjoyed in this fixture for so long. If the wheels had threatened to come off following this month’s sluggish defeats to Kilmarnock and Hearts, this was a reminder that they can still flex a significant bit of domestic muscle.

It is a win that halted Rangers’ ambitions of going top of the table should they have banked the points from their games in hand and alleviated the pressure that had been swirling around a Celtic side who were heavily depleted going into the encounter.

An early morning snowstorm in Glasgow had made the roads to Celtic Park fairly treacherous with Rangers heading into the game confident that Celtic were on the skids. As it transpired, Rodgers’ side showed a fairly firm footing when it came to asserting what has become a familiar grip of this game.

There was the usual frantic start as both sides looked to impose their authority on the encounter.

It was Celtic though who started to take as grip of the game with Rangers ignoring the portents of what was to come. Daizen Maeda’s pace took him in behind Ridven Yilmaz but Kyogo Furuhashi couldn’t get on the end of the ball that was fired low across the six-yard box. Prior to that a Luis Palma corner caused problems for Rangers without Celtic able to convert.

There was, though, a sense of conviction about Rodgers’ side going forward. Bernardo rippled the side netting with an effort that had Celtic Park on its feet as they thought the effort had gone in but it was an indication of what was to come.

Abdallah Sima weakly headed away a Palma corner at the front post with the ball bouncing perfectly for Bernardo, who sent a rasping half-volley past Jack Butland.

At the other end, Cyriel Dessers  ought to have restored parity. He dispossessed Stephen Welsh – who injured himself in the process and had to go off – but as there striker bore down on Joe Hart, he took forever which allowed Alistair Johnston to recover and get back with the striker fluffing his lines.

Maik Nawrocki was introduced for his first game since 20 August with Rangers then scenting the apprehension in Celtic’s backline.

Ross McCausland capitalised on a lack of communication between the central defence with a simple long ball finding the Rangers youngster. Like Dessers, though, he dallied as Celtic regrouped to clear their lines.

In between times the generally unflappable Philippe Clement found himself going into the book after remonstrating on the touchline as a VAR check gave Celtic a reprieve after Johnston got away with what looked like an unambiguous handball as he ushered the ball out of play in the box and away from Sima.

McCausland then brought out a save from Hart with a low effort that the Celtic stopper was equal to as Rangers finished the opening half trailing but positive.

The break gave Celtic the reprieve and reorganisation they needed with Celtic claiming the significant second goal of the afternoon.

Kyogo collected from Matt O’Riley on the edge of the box and shimmied the ball onto his left foot before curling an arching effort into the top corner with Butland, at full-stretch, unable to keep it out.

Rangers’ afternoon got worse again. Reduced to ten men after Balogun took out Maeda as the Japanese internationalist looked to go through one-on-one with Butland.

Tavernier threw Rangers a lifeline when he pulled one back with a trademark free-kick as Celtic created problems for themselves with their defending. Despite a few anxious moments, they saw out the 11 minutes of added time to take what could be a monumental win; the team who heads into the New Year top of the table has won the league in the last 11 out of 12 seasons.

Both managers will stress that nothing is decided on one afternoon but this result seemed fairly seismic given the optimism Rangers had headed to Celtic Park with.


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