Tavernier sets Rangers on course for Old Firm win over Celtic
Scottish Premiership, Ibrox - Rangers 2 (Tavernier 2, Arfield 63) Celtic 0
James Tavernier and Scott Arfield were on target as Rangers defeated Celtic 2-0 at Ibrox to win the final Old Firm derby of the season.
Steven Gerrard's side raced into the lead with barely 120 seconds on the clock through captain fantastic Tavernier, who grabbed his 17th goal of the season, his curling free-kick delivery evading everyone and nestling into the bottom corner, with Scott Bain left rooted to the spot.
The goal instilled a real sense of confidence and belief in the home camp but despite controlling proceedings, they failed to create another clear-cut opportunity before the break. Tempers are always frayed in Old Firm games and Jon Flanagan was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card for pushing his forearm into the neck of Scott Brown just minutes into the second half.
Celtic - who perhaps had one eye on their Scottish Cup final with Hearts at the end of the month - were lacklustre and second best in every department, and the game was put beyond their reach in the 63rd-minute when Arfield latched onto a fine pass by Glen Kamara and finished with aplomb.
Jermain Defoe almost added the gloss to a fine performance but he was denied by the post, as Rangers closed the gap on their fierce rivals Celtic - who were crowned champions for the eighth consecutive year last weekend - to six points going into the final league game. Such a lacklustre performance from Celtic will have done interim manager Neil Lennon's chances little good in his hope of landing the job permanently.
Signs of progress for Rangers under Gerrard? The Liverpool legend has guided Rangers to back-to-back home league wins over Celtic for the first time since March 2012, a sure sign that progress is being made at Ibrox. With one league game still to play, The Gers already have eight more points than they finished with in 2017/18 and though there are no prizes for second place, they have closed the gap on Celtic to just six points. They will end the season empty handed, but with six consecutive victories, Rangers have forward momentum and could prove a real obstacle in Celtic's attempt to land nine-in-a-row next term.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Scott Arfield (Rangers): Every attack went through the 30-year-old. His direct running, turn of pace and willingness to run into space caused Celtic problems all afternoon.
James Tavernier of Rangers celebrates scoring the opening goalGetty Images
Rangers: Foderingham 7, Tavernier 8, Goldson 7, Katic 7, Flanagan 6, Jack 7, Kamara 7, Davis 6, Arfield 9, Kent 8, Defoe 8. Subs: McCrorie n/a, Candeias n/a, Morelos n/a.
Celtic: Bain 6, Lustig 5, Simunovic 5, Ajer 5, Hayes 4, Brown 5, McGregor 6, Burke 4, Rogic 4, Johnston 4, Edouard 6. Subs: Ntcham 4, Sinclar 4, Toljan 4.
2' GOAL! Rangers 1-0 Celtic: What a start! Tavernier curls a sumptuous cross full of pace into the danger zone, no one can get on the end of it and it drops in at the far post! Bain was rooted to the spot!
51' FLASHPOINT! Before the corner can be taken, Flanagan pushes his forearm into Brown, who goes down holding his face! The Rangers defender goes into the referee's book. Is he a lucky boy?
63' - GOAL! Rangers 2-0 Celtic: A fine team goal puts the game beyond the champions! It's a fantastic drive forward from Kamara, he plays it to Defoe who dummies it and the ball runs through to Arfield. He takes a touch and fully-stretched, pokes it beyond Bain.
78' - OFF THE POST! Defoe, who is about to be replaced by Morelos, nearly caps a fine performance with a goal, hitting the post with a header.
- Rangers earned back-to-back home league wins over Celtic for the first time since March 2012.
- The Gers have won each of their last six Scottish Premiership matches, they last went on a longer run in the top-flight in October 2011 (nine games)
- Steven Gerrard's side have ended Celtic's 16-game unbeaten run.