There is no such thing as a meaningless victory in an Old Firm fixture. Given the troubled backdrop, this success for Rangers just felt more significant than most.
A midweek Covid-19 outbreak within the squad meant Steven Gerrard was not present for the first Glasgow derby of the season. Rangers were also denied the services of two goalkeepers and two right-backs – including the captain, James Tavernier – for the same reason. And still, with a cobbled-together team, the defending Scottish Premiership champions did enough to see off a Celtic side who promised far more than they delivered.
Filip Helander was the Ibrox hero. The Swedish defender leapt to nod in Borna Barisic’s corner midway through a second half which Rangers generally controlled. Old failings for Celtic, namely the inability to defend a basic set-piece, returned to the fore. The more damning element of Celtic’s display was in attack, however; it took 85 minutes for the third-choice Rangers goalkeeper, Robby McCrorie, to be properly tested.
A scrappy opening period was notable mainly for an astonishing Odsonne Édouard miss after Celtic’s Japanese forward, Kyogo Furuhashi, left him an apparently easy tap-in from six yards. The moment rather summed up Édouard’s afternoon. Celtic dominated for large spells of the first half without troubling McCrorie.
Rangers responded strongly after the interval and Helander, who has not been an automatic first pick this season, enjoyed the finest moment of his Ibrox career.
The scale of the goal celebration – wild, even for an Old Firm game – illustrated how much this one meant. Rangers, who have stuttered in the campaign’s opening weeks, were within touching distance of inflicting a second Premiership defeat of the season on Celtic.
McCrorie saved well with his feet from Furuhashi, five minutes from time, as Ange Postecoglou tried to breathe life into his team’s insipid display. This always had the look of a match that would be decided by a single goal; Rangers scored it, and claimed the points.