May 11, 2024

Celtic beat 10-man Rangers to nearly seal Scottish title

Celtic beat 10-man Rangers to nearly seal Scottish title

Soccer Football – Scottish Premiership – Celtic v Rangers – Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain – May 11, 2024 Celtic’s Greg Taylor celebrates after the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Celtic moved to the brink of a third-consecutive Scottish Premiership title by beating 10-man Rangers 2-1 in a chaotic Old Firm encounter on Saturday.

The Hoops pulled six points clear of their Glasgow rivals and have a seven-goal edge in goal difference with just two games left to play.

All three goals at Celtic Park came in a five-minute spell just before half-time.

Celtic looked set to cruise to victory when Matt O’Riley’s fiercely struck effort and John Lundstram’s own goal put the home side 2-0 in front.

Cyriel Dessers’ header pulled a goal back almost immediately.

But any hope of a Rangers revival was dashed in first-half stoppage time when Lundstram rounded off his miserable afternoon with a rash challenge on Alistair Johnston that was upgraded to a straight red card after a VAR review.

“Very significant (win). Nearly there now, three points more and another goal to the goal difference. A fantastic win for us,” said Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers.

“Celtic supporters in bars and houses all round the world understand that, in these games, it is all about winning.”

However, Rodgers acknowledged his side made life difficult for themselves by not pressing home the one-man advantage in the second half.

O’Riley’s poorly-struck penalty was saved by Jack Butland.

Daizen Maeda also had two strikes ruled out for offside.

“Let’s not hide away from that, we leave it a lot closer that what it should be,” added Rodgers.

“There is a lot of progress there we can still make.

“We shouldn’t have that finish to the game but the guys showed a great mentality.”

Victory for Rodgers’ men looks to be the decisive step towards a 12th title in 13 years after a topsy-turvy title race.

Rangers appeared down and out when Michael Beale was sacked as manager in October, with Celtic seven points clear.

A resurgence under Philippe Clement, propelled the blue side of the Glasgow divide to the top of the table in February.

Clement’s men, though, have stumbled in the run-in as shock defeats to Motherwell and Ross County allowed Celtic back in front.

However, it is Rangers’ miserable record in Old Firm clashes that has killed off their title challenge.

Celtic have taken 10 from a possible 12 points in the four league meetings between the sides.

Clement pinned the blame for his side’s latest defeat on Lundstram’s moment of madness just before the break.

“The red card makes it 10 times harder,” said the Belgian.

“Totally unneccessary to make a tackle there at that moment. One split-second wrong decision making.”

Rangers will have a chance for revenge when the teams face off once more in the Scottish Cup final later this month.

That will be scant consolation for not only losing out on the league title, but another huge bounty from direct qualification for next season’s Champions League.

Celtic are set to pocket an estimated £60 million ($75 million) in revenue from participation in the expanded version of Europe’s elite club competition next season.

The title can be mathematically sealed in midweek if Rangers fail to beat Dundee at home on Tuesday, or should Celtic avoid defeat against Kilmarnock 24 hours later.