Gers fire out warning with an Ibrox double over Hoops
Rangers 2-0 Celtic
Steven Gerrard's Rangers set down a marker ahead of Celtic's attempt to win their ninth straight title next year as they triumphed 2-0 in the final Old Firm clash of the campaign.
Neil Lennon's men arrived at Ibrox a week on from sealing their eighth title in a row but trudged away after allowing Gers to square up this term's derby head-to-head at two wins apiece.
Captain James Tavernier swept home a free-kick just moments after kick-off to give Gerrard's men the perfect start.
The Parkhead triple treble chasers looked like they had their minds elsewhere and paid the price when Scott Arfield wrapped up the win midway through the second half.
The victory - which cuts Celtic's lead to six points - counts for little in the larger scheme of things but will renew belief among the blue half of Glasgow that they can finally halt their bitter rivals' era of domination.
Wes Foderingham lining up in goal was a reminder of the disciplinary problems that have plagued Gers this season.
Allan McGregor's red card against Hibernian last week was the hosts' 12th of the campaign and Gerrard was once again forced to reiterate to his players in the days leading up to the game the importance of keeping referee Kevin Clancy onside.
The change in goal was Rangers' only alteration but Lennon made three from the side which clinched title No.50 at Pittodrie as he decided to take no chances on the fitness of Kieran Tierney and James Forrest ahead of the Scottish Cup final.
With Timothy Weah now departed, that made space for Jonny Hayes, Oliver Burke and Michael Johnston.
As expected, there was no guard of honour from Gerrard's team - but there were celebrations from the home support as Gers struck inside two minutes.
Tavernier was handed a free-kick opening after Ryan Kent was tripped by Johnston on the edge of Celtic's box. The Ibrox captain was looking to pick out a colleague but when a touch failed to come, Scott Bain was caught flat-footed and the ball flew in at his back post.
It took Celtic 18 minutes to catch their breath but Burke could only fire over. The Hoops established a foothold as the match ticked towards the break but it was an out-of-sorts display.
Jon Flanagan was the first to have his name taken after barging Scott Brown over before a corner.
Lennon looked far happier with his side's approach following the restart. But Gerrard's team responded by upping their tempo and struck on 65 minutes.
Glen Kamara took Brown out with a sublime drop of the shoulder then marched on. Jermain Defoe dummied his pass and the Hoops defence were caught cold as Arfield raced past Kristoffer Ajer to prod home.
No.3 should have arrived on 77 minutes as Kent released Defoe. Bain blocked his attempt then watched with relief as he lobbed the rebound against the bar.
Odsonne Edouard skipped past Nikola Katic but there was no lifeline as Burke's finish was stopped by Foderingham.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Flanagan, Kamara, Jack, Davis (McCrorie, 89 mins), Kent, Arfield (Candeias, 82 mins), Defoe (Morelos, 79 mins). Unused subs: Firth, Worrall, Halliday, Barasic.
CELTIC: Bain, Lustig (Toljan, 46 mins), Simunovic, Ajer, Hayes, Brown, McGregor, Rogic (Ntcham, 70 mins), Burke, Johnston (Sinclair, 65 mins), Edouard. Unused subs: De Vries, Benkovic, Ralston, Bitton
Referee: Kevin Clancy
Man of the match: Scott Arfield
Match rating: 6/10