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Gerrard’s men close the gap at the top

Gerrard’s men close the gap at the top

IBROX, Dec 30: Rangers ended their longest ever winless Old Firm Premiership run in style in front of 49,863 at Ibrox, reports The Daily Mail. After two draws and eight defeats in the Glasgow derby, a first half Ryan Jack strike put Rangers level on points with defending champions Celtic at the top of the Premiership. Celtic have a superior goal difference and the advantage of a match in hand over their bitter rivals. But after four Old Firm defeats on the bounce at Ibrox, this result will have sent confidence soaring in the Rangers camp. Celtic launched a brief offensive in the closing stages in a bid to rescue a point but it was too little too late and had they managed to deny their hosts a victory it would also have been thoroughly undeserved. Rangers dominated much of the first half, with Ryan Kent, recently returned from injury, especially prominent in forcing Celtic onto the back-foot. But their failure to convert chances into goals once again appeared to be the home side’s achilles heel as the Celtic goal remained intact under persistent pressure. Allan McGregor was the first keeper called into action to save a shot from James Forrest after seven minutes. But the Rangers shot-stopper was largely a spectator for a lengthy period after that as his team-mates pressed at a high tempo. Callum McGregor was forced to make a desperate clearance from Daniel Candeias before Craig Gordon had to rescue Celtic with a save from a Connor Goldson header. Alfredo Morelos then had a shot blocked as the Celtic defence sought to re-establish order at the back. But they had their work cut out as the Rangers players - sensing it might be their day at long last - applied themselves to the task with a new-found self-belief. Dedryck Boyata was forced to conceded a corner under pressure immediately before Goldson missed the target with another header. But with half-an-hour played Rangers achieved the breakthrough they richly deserved. Kent, an ever-present threat, forced Mikael Lustig to back off after showing him the ball and then proceeded to flick it neatly to Jack to produce a goal-scoring finish with a right foot shot from the centre of the penalty box. The irrepressible Kent might have scored himself after 38 minutes but his shot from outside the box just missed right. It was a measure of Rangers’ dominance up to half- time that they enjoyed 58 per cent possession compared to Celtic’s 42. But Rangers desperately needed a second goal to give themselves a comfort blanket and Kent should have supplied it inside two minutes of the second half. He took advantage of slack play by Boyata to set himself up but his finish was too close to McGregor and after the keeper had only managed to partially clear the ball. Boyata immediately atoned for his initial slack play by blocking Scott Arfield’s follow-up attempt. Ryan Christie and Oliver Ntcham relieved the pressure on Celtic with attempts at goal on the break but their respective efforts were blocked. When Rangers returned to the offensive Gordon produced a crucial one-handed save to deny Jack his and Rangers’ second goal with a desperate dive to his left after 55 minutes. Celtic, so often the dominant force in recent years, seemed incapable of establish much cohesion in their play and Morales popped up to test Gordon in the 62nd minute. For a few seconds at least the 700 Celtic fans thought they had cause for celebration when McGregor had the ball in the net from a lay-off from Christie in the 67the minute. But the Hoops’ hopes of an equaliser were quashed by an offside decision. Play almost immediately swung back to the other end and Arfield’s hesitancy in loosing off a shot before he was closed down allowed Celtic to escape punishment.

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