Davis overhead kick helps Rangers knock Celtic out of Scottish Cup
Rarely in modern times have Celtic, so recently the dominant force in Scotland, been afforded such a string of chances at Ibrox. That there was never a sense those in green and white could take any of said opportunities – including a penalty – only sums up an epic fall from grace.
Rangers had far more courage, belief and conviction than their oldest foes, as was easily sufficient to seal a place in the last eight of the Scottish Cup. Steven Gerrard’s aspirations of a domestic double are not so much on course as a likely outcome. Cup football has stung Gerrard earlier in his Ibrox tenure but this Rangers team now look a class above all else before them. They know it, too.
A penny for the thoughts of Eddie Howe. Celtic remain keen to appoint the former Bournemouth manager as the permanent successor to Neil Lennon and, despite noise around that scenario diminishing over the past few weeks, there is confidence they can do so. From shambles arises opportunity but Howe can have been left under no illusions over the size of upheaval required to revive Celtic’s fortunes if watching this cup tie.
Celtic look devoid of leadership and focus. Players who rather enjoyed the limelight when the going was good – very good, trouncing all before them in Scotland – have not appeared nearly as smart when Rangers provided stern opposition. The scale of Celtic personnel overhaul needed between the end of this season and the start of next promises to be quite extraordinary. Through necessity, that is.
John Kennedy, Celtic’s interim manager, rightly described his team’s first-half showing as “passive” and “soft”. Kennedy added: “We weren’t clinical or decisive.
The second half was better but this game is all about results, nothing else. You can’t give cheap goals away and you have to be decisive at the top end. That’s where Rangers have been better than us this season.” A contrasting Glasgow campaign in a nutshell.
Steven Davis, excellent throughout, handed Rangers an early lead with an overhead kick after Joe Aribo’s shot deflected into his path. Ryan Kent, a constant source of torment to the Celtic defence, had started the attack after Callum McGregor cheaply conceded Celtic possession. Leeds United remain firm admirers of Kent; on this evidence it is no wonder.
Celtic offered a response – Stephen Welsh passed up their finest opening – before Jonjoe Kenny’s own goal settled the match 11 minutes before the break. Kenny desperately tried to beat Kent to the ball, and did, as Aribo crossed, but the Everton loanee could only flick the ball into Scott Bain’s net.
David Turnbull’s effort 15 seconds into the second half suggested a Celtic rally. Yet Odsonne Édouard’s half-baked flick and Mohamed Elyounoussi’s poor control emphasised a team bereft of the basics. After Aribo bundled Leigh Griffiths to the ground, Édouard’s limp penalty was batted away by Allan McGregor. Gerrard later bemoaned the “really soft” award of the spot-kick in the first place. It was as if the Rangers manager needed something, anything, to moan about.
“I thought we were close to our best, individually and collectively,” Gerrard said. “We rode our luck at times but I don’t anyone can take away that we deserved our win over the course of the 90 minutes.
“We won the league really early. I saw the boys come off their top performances after that but it was really important we made a statement today because you have to be at the top of your game to beat Celtic. We were.”
For Celtic, a first trophyless season since 2009-10. Rangers aim to end theirs with Scottish Cup reclaimed on 22 May.