NORMALLY this online column talks in depth about the weekends action in the Barclays Premier League but this week the English top flight takes a back seat, as the SPL grabbed all the headlines.
I have had the privilege of attending an Old Firm clash and I can tell you that the atmosphere is unlike no other. I have been all over Europe at games but the passion and bubbling cauldron of noise that exists in Glasgow at either Ibrox or Celtic Park is unlike any other.
Add in the extra spice that Celtic could have claimed the title on the hallowed turf of Ibrox Park, this had the ingredients to be a special fixture.
From what I could see Neil Lennon expected that the motivation of winning the title would be enough to claim victory. He couldn’t have been any more wrong. This was a Rangers side who have never been at a lower point in the history of the club. He thought they were there for the taking. His decision to rest talents such as Forrest and Hooper was certainly not a clever idea.
However, at Old Firms anything can happen. In my opinion McCoist showed the Rangers supporters why Walter Smith entrusted him with the managerial role. He outwitted and outmanoeuvred Lennon throughout.
His tactics were spot on and Rangers thoroughly deserved their lead at the half time interval. The pace of Wallace and Aluko was proving too much for the Celtic back four. Cha may feel aggrieved by his sending off but his poor defensive positioning led to the dismissal. He got the wrong side of Wallace and the slightest of tugs left the Rangers winger unbalanced. Celtic may argue that they had covering defenders but Murray was quick to make his mind up and dismiss the South Korean.
Lennon obviously was far from impressed by the actions of Calum Murray and no-one quite knows what went on in the tunnel but the former NI international didn’t appear for the second half.
Rangers made that extra man count in the second half as Wallace helped to provide plenty of width with Whittaker doing his bit on the right hand side. Celtic soon found themselves down to nine men when Wanyama was sent off for a two footed lunge. On second viewing it did seem a bit harsh on the Kenyan but referees have been told to clamp down on ‘dangerous’ tackles especially two footed ones. It happens every week throughout the UK. When are players going to learn that they need to watch their tackles. Yes keep your tackling hard but ultimately it has to be fair. The slightest of malicious intent in tackles are being punished by whistlers now.
The next goal was going to prove crucial and McCoist threw on Andy Little in place of a tiring Aluko. Andy is a former schoolmate of mine and I had the pleasure of playing alongside him on a number of occasions.
He has been cursed with injury over the last few years but he is beginning to get back to full fitness and has started the last few games for Rangers. With his first touch of the ball he lashed the ball home after Forster did well to parry a Bocanegra effort. Inspired substitution by the Rangers gaffer.
It was 3-0 soon after as Celtic became stretched as Wallace galloped through and slid the ball home.
What happened after will certainly not have pleased McCoist as Bocangera saw red for a needless lunge as Samaras was put through on goal. Brown converted and Rangers began to panic.
Rogne soon grabbed a second when he climbed above Kerkar to nod home a second. However, it was little too late for Celtic as Rangers held on for a famous victory.
What was most pleasing at the end was the calm demeanour of McCoist at the final whistle. He stood at the mouth of the tunnel and shook hands with everyone involved in the Celtic panel. A mark of a true gentleman who has learnt from his mistakes of last year.
There is no doubting that Celtic will win the league this year but what will concern Neil Lennon has been their performances in big games. Losing to Rangers at Ibrox is certainly no disgrace but the defeat to Kilmarnock would have hurt the Lurgan man.
To conclude, hopefully the immediate and long term future of Rangers is sorted out. Five consortiums have shown interest in the club and that will be pleasing to Rangers fans who will be dreaming of much better times in the 2012/2013 season.