Miller ends goal drought in Old Firm win for Celtic
Kenny Miller ended his much-publicised goal drought for Celtic to help the
Parkhead side to a 2-0 win over his former club Rangers in the Bank of Scotland
Thomas Gravesen's first goal for the champions had given the home side a
narrow interval lead before the Scotland striker, who had failed to find the net
since arriving from Wolves in the summer, sealed the victory in the 73rd minute
when he slid Aiden McGeady's pass under the body of goalkeeper Allan McGregor.
Celtic's lead over Rangers at the top of the table was extended to seven
points and the pressure now mounts on Ibrox boss Paul Le Guen, who is no nearer
convincing supporters that he is the man for the job.
Despite the lunchtime kick-off at Celtic Park there was still the usual
tension surrounding the Old Firm fixture and with the backing of the home
support, it was the Hoops who were immediately on the ascendancy.
In the eighth minute Miller sprinted onto a long clearance from defender Lee
Naylor but, under pressure from Sasa Papac, the Scotland striker lobbed the ball
yards over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.
However, that initial supremacy was short-lived.
Rangers midfielder Charlie Adam responded by sending a snap-shot from distance
over the bar and moments later Celtic defender Stephen McManus had to be sharp
into the tackle to foil Kris Boyd as the striker bore down on goal.
Celtic regained the initiative but in the 18th minute, after McManus had
conceded a foul 25 yards from goal by tugging Boyd's shirt, Adam flashed the
resulting free-kick inches past the post.
Then Shunsuke Nakamura drew a good save from McGregor after Ibrox skipper
Barry Ferguson had lost possession to the Japanese midfielder in his own penalty
The Parkhead men were still slightly the better side in an enthralling
encounter but unforced errors and slackness in defensive positions were worrying
the home fans.
In the 25th minute Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink's volley from 30 yards was well
saved by McGregor who was having a splendid game in the Rangers goal.
At the other end, as the pace of the game dipped slightly, Boyd looked too
reticent challenging for Adam's free-kick from wide on the left and headed
harmlessly over the bar from six yards out.
But in the 34th minute the home side's dominance paid off when they took the
lead, albeit from an unlikely source.
Neil Lennon's cross in from the right was met by McGeady eight yards from goal
and, although McGregor made a fabulous save from the midfielder's header,
Gravesen had the easiest of tasks nodding in his first goal for the Parkhead
club from close range.
The Ibrox side rallied towards the interval but McGeady almost made it 2-0 in
the 40th minute when his curling effort from 30 yards clipped the bar.
Neither manager made changes at the break and when play resumed the visitors
looked more positive but in the 50th minute it was Nakamura who almost doubled
the Hoops' lead when he shaved the post with a powerful drive from 25 yards
In a promising Rangers counter-attack, striker Dado Prso played in Ferguson
but the pass was too strong, allowing Celtic keeper Artur Boruc to race from his
line and clear.
A driving run by the tireless Prso on the hour mark led to a foul by McManus
at the edge of the Celtic penalty area but a good opportunity was squandered
when Ferguson struck a poor shot against the wall and the rebound was sent well
wide by Rangers defender Steven Smith.
Moments later Boyd flashed a shot high over from 20 yards over and immediately
Lee Martin replaced Chris Burke to add to the earlier substitution of Libor
Sionko for Alan Hutton.
And in the 73rd minute the home side made sure of the points when Miller
dramatically broke his duck for the Parkhead side.
McGeady put him in at the edge of the visitors' penalty area with a clever
reverse pass and Miller slipped the ball under McGregor before peeling away to
celebrate with the jubilant Hoops fans.
Rangers almost grabbed a goal back when Prso's header was cleared off the line
by Naylor and then in the 81st minute Boyd's shot from 16 yards clipped the bar,
but Celtic held on to keep a clean sheet and claim first blood in the Old Firm