Three reasons Celtic and Brendan Rodgers came out on top against Steven Gerrard's Rangers
It was master versus apprentice as former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers came up against his old Anfield skipper Steven Gerrard for the first time since the latter took over at Rangers.
Celtic manager Rodgers came out on top as the Hoops claimed a 1-0 win at Parkhead and here, The Belfast Telegraph takes a look at how the two bosses fared in the first Old Firm meeting of the new season.
Rodgers was denied the services of Moussa Dembele after the Frenchman forced through a £19.7million move to Lyon just two days before the clash with Gers, but he had the comfort of being able to field the same starting XI which beat the Ibrox club 5-0 in the final derby of last season.
Skipper James Tavernier was the only man in blue still present in the Rangers ranks from that nightmare defeat as Gerrard handed Old Firm debuts to six players. But even that influx of fresh talent could not change the outcome as Celtic claimed a one-sided victory.
There was little new about the way Celtic operated as they stuck to the fluid game plan that has claimed back-to-back trebles under Rodgers.
Kieran Tierney was allowed to push on from left-back, and he was given plenty of encouragement by the hapless Ryan Kent. That tied down the Gers winger and also opened up space for match-winner Olivier Ntcham to roam free as Scott Arfield was sucked out from central midfield to back up the exposed Tavernier on the right flank.
Gerrard had road-tested a 3-5-2 formation against Motherwell last week but was dissuaded from trying it out this time after his team’s ropey defensive display at Fir Park. Instead, he looked to get an edge on the champions by putting frontman Kyle Lafferty up against the perceived weak link in the home defence, Mikael Lustig. But it failed to pay off as the Swede snuffed out the ineffectual former Hearts hitman.
It was evident early on that Rangers were nowhere near hitting the levels Celtic were capable of, with the hosts racking up an astonishing 75 per cent of the possession during the first half.
Having played with just nine men for the final half-hour of Thursday night’s Europa League clash in Ufa, Gers looked in desperate need of fresh legs the longer the game went. Gerrard, though, waited until the 81st minute to introduce youngster Glenn Middleton. Daniel Candeias was thrown on with three minutes left but the pair were unable to inspire a fightback.
Rodgers had the luxury of replacing £9million man Odsonne Eduoard with another proven goalscorer in Leigh Griffiths and it almost paid off as the Scotland hitman came close on a couple of occasions.
Gerrard has certainly made Rangers a tougher nut to crack and will argue last year’s Ibrox vintage would have suffered a much more painful afternoon in the same circumstances — but the fact of the matter is he will have to make significant improvements to the way his side take care of the ball if they are to topple Rodgers’ team from their perch.