Glasgow: Celtic landed an early blow in the race for the Scottish Premiership title as they beat bitter rivals Rangers 2-0 on Sunday in the first Old Firm derby of the season.
Neil Lennon’s side are bidding for a historic ninth successive Scottish title and their impressive show at Ibrox was a significant statement of intent.
Odsonne Edouard put Celtic ahead in the first half. The visitors controlled the tempo for long periods until Jonny Hayes wrapped up the points in stoppage-time.
Rangers, hoping to mount a sustained challenge to Celtic’s supremacy, had enjoyed an encouraging start to the season with three consecutive league wins. But on the evidence of the Hoops’ confident display against Steven Gerrard’s men, they remain the pre-eminent force in Scottish football as they extended their perfect start to the title defence with a fourth successive victory.
It was a welcome confidence boost for Celtic after their failure to qualify for the Champions League group stages.
“I’m so proud of the team. I thought it was another outstanding performance. Everyone has written us off. We’ve had a difficult couple of weeks,” said Lennon, whose table toppers are three points clear of Rangers.
“Myself, the board, the players have all been written off so early. But we don’t believe the noise. We don’t believe the hype.
“We came here as underdogs, for whatever reason, but we put down a marker today.
“We’ve come here and performed an outstanding masterclass of how to play in a derby at Ibrox.”
Rangers manager Gerrard was furious with his team’s lack of quality and drive.
“Our performance collectively and individually wasn’t good enough to win a derby. I’m part of that so I’ll take as much responsibility that comes my way,” he said.
“To win these games we have to win more one-v-ones than the opposition but I think there’s only one player who can hold his head up high and that’s Jon Flanagan.
“I don’t think Celtic outplayed us, they just pressed us hard and were effective in their game plan. We couldn’t handle their direct play.”
French forward Edouard capitalised on a loose pass to net his fifth goal in seven derbies in the 32nd minute.
Rangers defender Connor Goldson gave the ball straight to Celtic winger Mikey Johnston, who slipped the 21-year-old through to slot home.
All four Old Firm clashes were won by the home team last season, but Celtic ended that pattern in the opening encounter of the new campaign.