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The Rangers took a big step towards winning the Scottish Premiership title when Callum McGregor’s own goal gave them a 1-0 victory in the Old Firm derby over Celtic.
Steven Gerrard’s undefeated team now lead their fierce rivals by a formidable 19 points at the top of the table.
Celtic still have three games in hand, but their hopes of clinching a historic 10th title in a row seem increasingly slim, and this result puts pressure on manager Neil Lennon.
Champions Celtic had the best of Saturday’s game at Ibrox, but the tables turned when Nir Bitton was sent off after 62 minutes.
Callum McGregor then inadvertently gave the Rangers, who did not record a shot on goal in the contest, an invaluable winning goal.
Celtic got off to an excellent start and it took two crucial saves from goalkeeper Allan McGregor to prevent the visitors from taking an early lead.
Impressive stooped down to deny Odsonne Edouard, who had not played in the last meeting between the teams, that the Rangers won 2-0 in October.
The Rangers goalkeeper then made an even better fingertip save to launch a 25-yard shot from Leigh Griffiths that was destined to find the top corner on the post.
Gerrard brought in Ianis Hagi, who had been knocked out of the starting eleven in place of Ryan Kent, at halftime, with Kemar Roofe coming out and his team began to gradually improve.
The Rangers got a big boost when Bitton was fired after knocking Alfredo Morelos to the ground as the forward tried to run into a James Tavernier pass and looked like he had a clear path to goal.
Taking the lead after 70 minutes, Joe Aribo threw a Tavernier at Callum McGregor, whose arm deflected the ball past Vasilios Barkas.
Celtic substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi fired a bit more, but there was no turning back for the 10 men, who have now lost three consecutive league derbies for the first time since 2008.
– Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) January 2, 2021
What does that mean? Rangers in control
At halftime, Celtic had racked up 11 shots against all three for the Rangers and it was one-way traffic.
But neither side registered a goal attempt in a more even second half that took a decisive turn when Bitton was sacked, even though Gerrard’s side continued to offer little attacking threat.
Celtic’s return in the title race seems highly unlikely now. Even if they win all three of their hand games and the next two Old Firm derbies, they would be four behind a Rangers team that has won 14 in a row, conceding just three goals in that run.
Awesome Allan denies Celtic
It would have been a different game if Allan McGregor hadn’t starred in the early stages.
The veteran shot stopper made three saves, the most crucial of which was a jaw-dropping save to deny Griffiths, an intervention that gave a conservative Rangers team a platform to get back into the game.
The drought continues in Morelos
While the Rangers will be delighted with the result, Morelos was unable to end his losing streak against Celtic.
He forced Bitton’s red card, but otherwise saw all three of his shots blocked and hasn’t scored in 12 Old Firm league derbies.
The key to the Rangers’ victory was their ability to hold back Edouard, who had scored six goals in this game since his first appearance in March 2018, plus his first chance, more than any other player.
Fit Rangers are absent for Aberdeen, third, next Sunday, the day before Celtic are due to win when they host Lennon’s former club, the Hibernian.