Celtic firm favourites to reclaim title after Carter-Vickers winner at Rangers

For the blue half of Glasgow, it was an afternoon of regrets and frustrations

Rangers 1 Celtic 2

At full-time a deathly hush seemed to descend over Ibrox: the realisation that a season’s efforts had come to nothing, that the title they spent a decade craving and coveting and finally claiming has now all but slipped from their grasp. For after a performance of extraordinary maturity and resilience in the most hostile of settings, Celtic are six points clear in the Scottish Premiership. And as their 700 fans celebrated in their cramped little corner of Ibrox, they knew as well as anyone that it is game over.

Tom Rogic and Cameron Carter-Vickers got the goals, but it was at the other end of the pitch that Celtic really distinguished themselves: endless blocks, endless clearing headers, discipline and cohesion and naturally a little gamesmanship when it was required. Their midfield, written off by many ahead of this game as too slight and technical for a game like this, was a superb second line of defence, never allowing Rangers to take control of the game despite Aaron Ramsey's third-minute goal.

For the blue half of Glasgow, an afternoon of regrets and frustrations. They were poor: lacking in finesse and movement, reduced for large periods of the game to a fusillade of abysmal crosses. The seething and screeching of the crowd hardly helped, paralysing every Rangers player with the sort of extreme stress that makes every decision a struggle. There will probably be a lively debate over whether the absent Alfredo Morelos would have made a difference to a toothless attack. Equally, the 11 on the pitch could have done so much more.

And this, ultimately, is the sort of game upon which these players will be judged. John Lundstram, otherwise excellent for Rangers, also gave away the free-kick from which Celtic scored their winning goal, and thus will his derby be remembered. Such is the brutal starkness of the Old Firm. Glasgow on derby day was its usual crock pot of malice and menace, nerves and nonsense. Late on Saturday night three Celtic fans were arrested at Ibrox for attempting to seal shut the turnstiles with expanding foam. A few Rangers fans, meanwhile, spent their evenings letting off fireworks outside the Celtic hotel.

But for all the shenanigans off the pitch, the songs you can print and the songs you can’t, it was actually a fairly regular sort of game, with very little of the cartoon physicality you often see in these fixtures. Perhaps that suited Celtic, whose brief would have been to neutralise the Ibrox crowd as quickly as possible and let Rangers stew in their own stress.

And in this respect perhaps the turning point of the game came as early as the seventh minute, when Rogic’s equaliser dramatically spiked a Rangers surge that was already threatening to set the terms of the game. Rangers were rampant in those opening minutes under the midday sun, full of energy and promise, scoring early through Ramsey, who for all his early struggles at Ibrox was in the right place at the right time in the right game.

Ramsey finished a lovely flowing move started by Calvin Bassey and continued by Ryan Kent, who was Rangers's best player in the first half before fading in the second. And had Rangers just been able to hold on to their lead, perhaps even kill it off, the afternoon might have a radically different feel to it. Instead, to the sound of stunned silence, Rogic bundled the ball in from Celtic's first attack after Reo Hatate's shot had been parried by Allan McGregor.

Slowly and by degrees, Celtic got themselves into the game. Rogic would have two more good chances over the next half-hour. Rangers would have more of the ball but looked increasingly indecisive with it, as if they were intuiting the tension of their supporters with every touch. Three minutes before half-time Rangers failed to clear a free-kick from the Celtic left and Lundstram’s attempted clearance went to Carter-Vickers, the centre-half on loan from Tottenham.

The start of the second half was delayed as stewards removed shards of glass from a glass bottle thrown at the Celtic goalmouth. It was about as close as any Rangers player would get to Joe Hart’s goal for the rest of the afternoon. Rangers began well but quickly ran out of ideas and puff. Celtic were able to refresh their team from the bench and even occasionally threaten a third: Liel Abada had two good chances.

And really the disappointment for Rangers will be that they offered so little in a game that mattered so much. There is still a Scottish Cup to be played for, Europa League glory to pursue, perhaps even the forlorn hope that Celtic might slip up and cough up the seven points Rangers need to overtake them. But on this evidence, Celtic's 52nd league title feels like a formality. – Guardian