SPL - Rangers down Celtic in Old Firm classic

Sun, 18 Sep 14:20:00 2011

Rangers roared back from a half-time deficit to sink 10-man Celtic 4-2 in a pulsating Old Firm classic at Ibrox.

Rangers Celtic Lafferty Ibrox - 0

Steven Naismith put the hosts in front as early as the 23rd minute, only for Gary Hooper to net his fourth goal in seven games against Rangers with a clinical finish just after the half hour mark.

But the major drama was to follow as Allan McGregor inexplicably let a seemingly innocuous long-range drive from Badr El Kaddouri slip through his grasp to gift Celtic the lead with Kyle Lafferty then having a legitimate goal ruled out for offside.

Nikica Jelavic levelled in the 55th minute with a majestic header, before Lafferty capped a remarkable comeback with a finish from close range to spark Ibrox delirium. Charlie Mulgrew was shown a red card, and a second from Naismith deep into stoppage time capped a miserable day for Neil Lennon.

Ally McCoist had no qualms in handing Old Firm debuts to USA captain Carlos Bocanegra and Romania international Dorin Goian, citing the pair's experience as all the justification needed, while Celtic were boosted by skipper Scott Brown being passed fit after recovering from an ankle problem.

The match began at a typically frenetic pace with an explosive atmosphere to match, and Celtic's defence was under immense pressure from the outset as a woeful backpass from Kelvin Wilson almost let in Nikica Jelavic.

The play lurched violently from end-to-end, but it was the home side who stamped their authority on proceedings as Kelvin Wilson failed to clear a cross from Kyle Lafferty, enabling Naismith to take the ball down and unleash a thunderous volley beyond Fraser Forster. It was his first Old Firm strike.

Hooper was left seething with his strike partner as he saw a fierce strike blocked away to safety by the hapless Georgios Samaras in the 33rd minute as the Greek failed to retreat from an offside position in rather lethargic fashion.

But just seconds later, Hooper was delirious after Scott Brown picked him out down the left with an exquisite reverse-pass perfectly into his path, and the forward kept his composure to slide a precise finish into the far corner of the net.

Rangers responded with a bright spell of possession, but the hosts were left utterly shell-shocked after El Kaddouri unfurled a pretty tame low drive from distance, and McGregor somehow let the ball squirm through his defences and into the net to gift Celtic a first-half lead.

Rangers came out for the second half with renewed urgency and vigour, and it took just a minute for Steven Davis to hammer a rasping volley against the crossbar with Forster comprehensively beaten by the strike.

The hosts were then denied a perfectly legitimate goal in the 52nd minute as Lafferty made a late run to latch on to Jelavic's through ball and crash the ball into the back of the net, only to see the flag go up. Replays showed that Lafferty was not offside, and McCoist's side felt justifiably aggrieved.

But Rangers restored parity three minutes later as another pinpoint cross from Davis out on the right was met by Jelavic, who rose imperiously to head beyond Forster and level.

Lafferty proceeded to miss two absolute sitters as Celtic were twice handed reprieves. First the forward headed over the bar unmarked from close range, before he somehow contrived to shoot wide with just the keeper to beat on the hour mark following a dreadful header from El Kaddouri.

It was Celtic's turn to be denied by the woodwork as defender Glenn Loovens rose to head against the foot of the far post, and Rangers capitalised ruthlessly seconds later as a Greg Wylde cross was not cleared and Lafferty finally kept his composure to finish from close range and give his side a dramatic lead.

Mulgrew was finally dismissed in the 76th minute as referee Thomson's patience with the Celtic midfielder finally petered out, and after he was booked in the 16th minute and continued to fly into challenges, a red card had a distinct air of inevitability about it.

Celtic's misery was compounded as Naismith smashed a clinical strike into the back of the net from close range to make it four in stoppage time, and it was McCoist who was left to bask in his first Old Firm victory in charge of Rangers.

Dan Quarrell - follow on Twitter: @danquarrell / Eurosport

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