How Ange Postecoglou's incisive Celtic thumped toothless Rangers

By Dave Flanigan

September 4, 2022

You might wonder where even to begin when looking for an area to target after a 4-0 derby thrashing, and it’s a pretty reasonable query after Celtic thrashed their Glasgow rivals Rangers for the second time in seven months at Celtic Park yesterday.

There will be rightful praise for Celtic’s flying wide forwards, with Abada scoring a trademark double from two low left-hand side crosses into the box and Jota and beautifully weighted chip. Others might focus on Celtic’s irrepressible full-backs, who have both become as integral to Ange Postecoglou’s system as any forward star, but it was in the midfield that the difference between the sides truly told.

In the 3-0 game in February, a bewildered Rangers were blown away in the first half, unable to prevent Celtic’s wide rotations or take any sort of control of a whirlwind 45 minutes. Yesterday was a different affair, as Celtic seemed largely happy to cede possession of the ball to a Rangers side with no creativity in the middle of the pitch.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Rangers’ double pivot of John Lundstram and a creaking Steven Davis were woefully ineffective against the guile, craft and drive of Celtic’s twin “8”s Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley, both of whom perfectly embodied their manager’s philosophy of working tirelessly, winning the ball back quickly, and always looking to make quick forward passes.

Despite only recording a comparatively low (by their recent standards) xG of 1.57, Celtic were clinical, and incisive in key areas, with all four goals emblematic of a side who never give opponents a moment to breath, taking full advantage of Rangers’ slackness.

Whilst Rangers’ full-backs are a useful offensive weapon, Borna Barasic and James Tavenier were largely restricted to crosses from deep and gave Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt – later Moritz Jenz – little to worry about, with both more than capable of aerially dominating the box, as they did in the 2-1 win at Ibrox in April.

The less said about Ryan Kent, the better. The former Liverpool winger has so often been a creative spark in Europe but was found badly wanting in a derby once again, and had little meaningful impact on a day when his side so badly needed some kind of inspiration

How Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s side were caught napping at dead balls on three occasions against a side renowned for getting the ball back in play as quickly as possible is unfathomable, but it happened, and Celtic exploited their rivals deficiencies ruthlessly.

In the 2-1 Scottish Cup defeat and 1-1 draw in the league after the Scottish Premiership split, Rangers’ joy came from boxing Celtic in at goal kicks, forcing Postecoglou’s side to go long and cede controlled possession, something their half-hearted and often incoherent press never looked capable of achieving yesterday.

Of course, there remains a long, long way to go in the Scottish Premiership title race, but Celtic have started the season in electric form, and look more than capable of accelerating away from their rivals in second before the next meeting of the teams at Ibrox following the World Cup.

In other news: Celtic daft EFL boss left buzzing with Bhoys derby win in Saturday post-match interview