Old Firm fails to ignite

 

Celtic 0 Rangers 0:It's as you were at the top of the Scottish Premier League after Old Firm rivals Rangers and Celtic played out an unusually dour draw at the home of the latter. The result means Gordon Strachan's side remain two points clear of Walter Smith's men.

Scott McDonald missed the chance of the game but Artur Boruc pulled off two impressive saves at Parkhead.

After 15 minutes of a poor first half which the home side edged, the Australia international failed to connect properly with a cross from Hoops’ debutant Willo Flood from just six yards out.

Rangers responded after the break and, as referee Calum Murray irked both benches with some strange decisions, Celtic keeper Boruc saved a deflected header from his own skipper Stephen McManus and blocked a David Weir header from point-blank range.

After what was a fractious encounter, the point each will probably not unduly worry either side as Celtic retain their two-point lead over the Light Blues at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League with one Old Firm league game to come.

Most of the attention pre-match had been on 17-year-old John Fleck who became the youngest Ibrox debutant in the Glasgow derby since skipper Barry Ferguson’s brother, Derek, played in a 1-1 draw at the same venue in 1984.

His first involvement came in the third minute when his cross from the left after taking a Ferguson pass had Boruc stretching to get a hand to it at the back post before Hoops defender Lee Naylor cleared the danger.

Celtic were more confident in the early exchanges but neither keeper was seeing much action in a mainly midfield battle littered with mistakes.

In the 15th minute, Hoops debutant Willo Flood scuttled past Fleck down the right and crossed to McDonald who failed to get enough on his header six yards out and the ball flew wide of the far post.

It was a glaring miss from the Australia international but it served to inspire Celtic to take a tighter grip of the game.

As Rangers retreated further, and with Kyle Lafferty offering little up front, Celtic pressed confidently and with more purpose.

However, the game remained fractured by numerous fouls and infringements with the home support complaining about the amount of decisions given against their side.

The increasingly disappointing encounter was characterised when Rangers defender Weir and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink were booked, harshly, for an altercation after Ibrox keeper Allan McGregor had collapsed on the Dutchman after clutching a Naylor cross, and when Paul Hartley flashed a shot from 25 yards high over the bar.

There was muted applause when the half-time whistle sounded, neither set of fans enamoured by what they had witnessed although the Celtic support might have been slightly more satisfied.

The Ibrox club almost stole in the lead in the 50th minute when defender Madjid Bougherra slipped away from Vennegoor of Hesselink and Nakamura on the right and curled an inviting ball towards the front post.

McManus deflected the cross with his head leaving Boruc to adjust quickly to push the ball behind for a corner which ended when Ferguson drove wide of the target from outside the box.

When slack play from Scott Brown allowed Ibrox midfielder Davis to break quickly, Lafferty took the pass from his fellow Northern Ireland international but his shot from 16 yards was too tame to bother Boruc.

Seconds before Fleck was replaced by Kenny Miller in the 59th minute, Ferguson latched on to a Lafferty header but mis-hit wide from 14 yards.

Georgios Samaras and Aiden McGeady replaced Vennegoor of Hesselink and Flood just after the hour mark as Celtic tried a new approach but moments later it was Rangers who broke down the right through Miller with his pass only just too much for the supporting Davis.

As the Light Blues took over, Miller missed a good chance after being cleverly set up by Davis, the former Celtic striker slicing wide from just 10 yards out.

In the 74th minute, Steven Naismith replaced Lafferty who failed to battle cramp, and was booked two minutes later for clashing with Brown.

Minutes later, Boruc produced another wonderful reflex save when Weir bulleted in a Pedro Mendes corner.

In the 88th minute, after Naismith had bundled Shunsuke Nakamura to the ground 25 yards from goal, McGregor saved at the near post from the Japan international’s curled free-kick.