Celtic Capture 397th Old Firm, Leapfrog Rangers


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Northern Ireland international midfielder STEVEN DAVIS (8) of Rangers, who leads the Ibrox club with ten assists in the Scottish Premier League this season, races for the ball with Celtic’s Scotland international winger JAMES FORREST (49) during the 397th installment of the always-exciting Old Firm Derby contested at Celtic Park in the Parkhead district of Glasgow.
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A solitary goal headed off a set piece seven minutes into the second half insured that it will, indeed, be a Happy New Year for the Hoops, after all, as CELTIC clipped ultimate arch-rival RANGERS in the 397th Old Firm Derby by the minimum scoreline at Parkhead and leapfrogged over their Glasgow intra-city foe to now lead the Scottish Premier League by two points.

A typical Scottish football match, then, with inclement weather in the form of extremely strong winds and plenty of Route One stuff, as well. Scotland international midfielder LEE MCCULLOCH looked to have given the visiting Rangers an early lead in only the seventh minute, but English goalkeeper FRASER FORSTER did enough to convince the entire ball never crossed the goalline although television replays appeared to confirm otherwise. Greece World Cup winger GEORGIOS SAMARAS, who tallied two goals in the Old Firm Derby on New Year’s Day in 2011 but has scored just threee goals in all competitions for Celtic halfway through this current term, got the ball behind Scotland international goalkeeper ALLAN MCGREGOR on a rebound another seven minutes later but was correctly judged offsides.

Croatia international striker NIKICA JELAVIC, for whom the Rangers paid Austrian club SK Rapid Vienna 4.0 million English pounds in August of 2010, put a header on target from a corner kick in the 24th minute. United States World Cup defender CARLOS BOCANEGRA, though, somehow managed to steer the ball over the crossbar from two yards away. English striker GARY HOOPER, the top shot for Celtic with 15 goals in all competitions this season, had a chance before the break but was halted by McGregor.

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Scotland international midfielder LEE MCCULLOCH of Rangers sends Israel international midfielder BIRAM KAYAL (33), who is second on Celtic having started 18 of 21 SPL matches this term, flying in a typically tough-tackling Old Firm Derby match which included harsh weather conditions as well; Kayal was injured on the play and subsequently taken off in favor of South Korea World Cup midfielder SUNG-YUENG KI in the 76th minute.
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The decisive moment of the 397th Old Firm Derby appeared in the 52nd minute after McGregor tipped a blast from Scotland international winger JAMES FORREST over for a corner. Wales international fullback JOE LEDLEY was able to win the aerial duel at the back post and score his fifth goal in all games for Celtic this term. A first career strike in what is, perhaps, the world’s most intense cross-town rivalry, then, for the 24-year-old who arrived at Parkhead at no cost from Welsh club Cardiff City in the summer of 2010.

The record Scottish champions attempted a rally that never did really begin to materialize at Parkhead although Jelavic, who leads the Ibrox club with 14 goals in all competitions this season, did have a couple of quality opportunities. Manager ALLY MCCOIST withdrew 22-year-old, surprise starter SONE ALUKO, the Nigeria international who signed with Rangers in late November after having his contract with FC Aberdeen expire this summer, and used a full allotment of substitutes including World Cup midfielder MAURICE EDU, who had started 18 of Rangers’ first 20 league matches heading into the latest intstallment of Glasgow’s Big Game. 32-year-old Northern Ireland international attacker DAVID HEALY appeared for only the fourth time all season in the S.P.L., all as a replacement off the bench for Rangers, but could only get his name written down for a yellow card offense.

And so a resurgent FC Celtic, who have won the domestic league title on 42 occasions, complete their charge to the top of the table while manager NEIL LENNON’s job now seems more safe than ever. Celtic, of course, were nipped late last term for the Scottish Premier League title by their eternal enemies from across town. The sputtering Rangers are badly missing injured Scotland international STEVEN NAISMITH, who had registered nine goals in eleven league matches before going down for the season with a knee injury at the end of October.

OLD FIRM ALL-TIME RECORD — Rangers 158, Celtic 144 with 95 draws

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United States World Cup captain and defender CARLOS BOCANEGRA (left), who departed AS St. Etienne in France to sign with Rangers this summer for a transfer fee believed to be 460,000 Euros, heads the ball over the net from close quarters during the 397th Old Firm Derby at Celtic Park in the Parkhead district of Glasgow.
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397th Old Firm Derby
December 28, 2011
Celtic Park, Glasgow

CELTIC : Forster – Matthews, Rogne, Mulgrew, Ledley – Forrest, Brown, Kayal (Ki 76′), Wanyama, Samaras – Hooper (Stokes 86′)

RANGERS : MacGregor – Broadfoot, Bartley, Bocanegra, Papac – Aluko (Wylde 66′), McCulloch (Edu 79′), Davis, Wallace (Healy 79′), Lafferty – Jelavic

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