Very sadly, it must be admitted that Andy Walker on SKY TV got it right when he said that “Rangers wanted it more than Celtic did”.
Celtic had too many players who were not on the boil – in particular, Ntcham, Sinclair, Brown and Boyata. Lustig and Johnston were rightly substituted, with Johnston given his Glasgow Derby debut just a match or two too soon. And when you have so many players who are not contributing, you will always be struggling.
Celtic had two pieces of bad luck – one was the injury to Philip Benkovic and the other was the Callum McGregor goal which was flagged for offside – marginally correct, but there was not much in it.
In addition in the last 20 minutes when Celtic at last came on to the sort of a game that we expected a Celtic team to play, the refereeing decisions tended to go against us with Beaton very loath to take strong action against time wasters, and the stand side linesman seeming to talk encouragingly to some of the Rangers players! (Was I imagining that, by the way?)
The good news was the goalkeeping of Craig Gordon. It could have been a lot more if he had not been in top form during that dreadful first half.
Indeed it was in the first half that the damage was done. That was the time when we should have been a lot more willing to go in hard. As it was, Rangers got the advantage, in particular the psychological boost which their fans made the most of.
Much will be said about the lack of Celtic fans there, and whether it was fair or not, and should we retaliate in March? Maybe, but it is not a convincing excuse for what can only be described as a sub-standard performance. We have to be able to play against a hostile crowd!
Putting it as brutally as possible, there will be no 8 in a row if we keep playing like this.
It is all the more depressing after such an encouraging game at Pittodrie, and clearly, for the next three weeks the “long hard look at themselves” is required by certain players and possibly even by Brendan Rodgers himself.
The decision to play Johnston instead of Edouard was clearly wrong, and although I accept that we need a quality left back if Kieran Tierney is unavailable, we must take the field with someone prepared to do that job until such time as that problem is solved.
No-one as yet knows what will happen in the next three weeks (I suspect there might be a lot less coming and going than many people think), but it has to be stressed that although today was a bad blow, the situation is not yet critical.
The game in hand and superior goal difference might yet be important, but we really have to buck up our ideas a little. Rangers are, after all, not unbeatable, but from now on, we must make no slip-ups.
Motivation is the key thing, and treble trebles, 10 in a row, and sheer professional desire not to see Rangers prancing about a football field like they did today at the end should be enough. If Celtic players are not hurting and sore about today, frankly they should not be Celtic players! Today’s performance was not acceptable.
You may have noticed a certain hoisting of true colours from some commentators at the end. Brace yourself for more of it in the Sunday and Monday newspapers, a lot of it slightly disguised under the “meaningful title race at last” sort of cant.
Time to lick wounds, have a Happy New Year, the meaningful “long hard look at ourselves”, and then the bounce back on 19 January with no Celtic apologist ever again having to say “they wanted it more than us”. That hurt!