Homeowner McGregor’s derby goal helps Rangers take 19-point lead over Celtic | Scottish Premiership

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The #Rangers have now entered #Devon #Loch territory and #Jean van de #Velde. #Steven #Gerrard could deliberately point to a 10-point lead atop the #Scottish #Premiership – which it would be if #Celtic won their three games in hand – but all available evidence suggests that even that would be enough. A collapse of the #Rangers from here would be as epic as it is unlikely.

#No wonder #Neil #Lennon was shot down by the #Old #Firm result. #Celtic were the better team for the first 60 minutes – and dominant for the first 45 – with #Nir #Bitton’s red card giving the #Rangers momentum which they happily grabbed. #Confidence visibly drained from visiting players when the #Israeli center-back was sacked for shooting #Alfredo #Morelos. #It seems odd to identify any defining moments at this point, a time when the #Rangers had such an advantage anyway, but any lingering #Celtic hope went down the tunnel with #Bitton.

There was an odd element to the lone goal of the game that further intensified #Lennon’s frustration. #James #Tavernier’s corner flew off the shoulder of one of #Celtic’s best players, #Callum #McGregor, and into his own net. #It was a game #Celtic couldn’t afford to lose and #Rangers didn’t particularly need to win; the result leaves #Gerrard with one hand and four fingers on the league trophy.

“These games are all about great moments,” said the #Rangers manager. “#Celtic made a very bad mistake and we capitalized on it to win the game. #You don’t always get out of this game what your performance deserves. #We know that more than anyone. #So winning and not being at our best is a big advantage for me.

#Critics of #Lennon – of whom there are many – will say #Celtic were ultimately punished for their debauchery in the first half. #Yet they also encountered an inspired opponent in #Allan #McGregor, the veteran #Rangers goaltender. #McGregor’s early stop against #Odsonne #Edouard was impressive, his touch from a subsequent curling effort from #Leigh #Griffiths at the post exceptional. #It marked #McGregor’s 401st #Rangers appearance, less than a month before his 39th birthday.

“You’re talking about a club legend, a phenomenal goalkeeper,” #Gerrard said. “It’s a shame he’s almost as old as I am because I would like him to be my keeper for many, many years.

The #Rangers’ problem in these early exchanges was the anonymity of their attackers. #It improved slightly after the interval – in which #Ianis #Hagi replaced injured #Kemar #Roofe – but #Celtic seemed most likely to score ahead of #Bitton’s aberration. #Lennon thinks #Bobby #Madden flashed his red card by mistake. #Morelos was chasing a pass from #Tavernier when #Bitton, needlessly it must be said, engaged in the kind of action more typical of a rugby match. The incident occurred 22 meters from goal, outside the corner of the penalty area.

#Celtic’s #Nir #Bitton walks past #Rangers coach #Steven #Gerrard (right) after being sent off. #Photograph: #Andrew #Milligan / PA

“#Morelos might have gotten a shot, but it would have been from a very narrow angle,” #Lennon said. “#It’s not even in the box. I thought he was too quick to remove the red. #It’s poor de #Nir but it’s not a red card and it changed the course of the game. #We had been in full control.

“I was happy with the team. #We had plans in place for later in the game, but the red card changed that. I am bitterly disappointed. There were a lot of good things to come out of the game. I hate to lose, especially games of this magnitude and I don’t think we deserved to lose today.

#Borna #Barisic’s free kick, deflected from very close, immediately preceded the corner which broke the deadlock. #McGregor appeared to be deceived by #Joe #Aribo’s move, with the own goal an unsuitable way to score the #Old #Firm captain position from the midfielder.

#Lennon, of course, has no choice but to publicly promise to keep fighting. “You have to keep going,” the #Irishman added. “##You can’t just say it’s over.” #Yet this #Rangers side have conceded just five goals in 22 league games. #As #Celtic’s players and management board a charter flight to #Dubai, where they will participate in a winter training camp, they must privately know that the race is almost over. The #Rangers bear no resemblance to a team likely to choke on the straight.

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