Gerrard v Rodgers: Old Firm derby managers’ focus

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers came up against his old Anfield skipper Steven Gerrard for the first time at Ibrox since the latter took over at Rangers in the summer.

Here, Football Paradise takes a look at how the two bosses fared in Govan.

Team selection

Rodgers was without services of striker Leigh Griffiths and midfielder Tom Rogic with left-back Kieran Tierney and striker Odsonne Edouard fit only to make the bench.

The Northern Irishman passed up the chance to put experienced Emilio Izaguirre or Jonny Hayes to left-back after both had featured in the 4-3 Boxing Day win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

Instead, he opted to move Callum McGregor, arguably Celtic’s best midfielder this season, into that slot.

Teenage winger Mikey Johnston was given his first start in an Old Firm game in attack and the visitors looked disjointed generally and lacked punch going forward,  with the French striker improving that threat a little when he eventually came on.

Gerrard was fortunate that midfielder Scott Arfield, winger Ryan Kent  defender Connor Goldson won their race to be fit and all of them made huge contributions to the victory.

Substitutions

Rodgers was forced into a substitution just before the break when defender Filip Benkovic picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Kristoffer Ajer. Mikael Lustig was kept in at the interval with his place taken by Anthony Ralston. This restricted Rodgers to one more substitution in the second-half and he brought on Edouard for Johnston on the hour mark, to no avail.

Gerrard introduced midfielder Lassana Coulibaly for Daniel Candeias after 70 minutes as Celtic came back into the game. Rangers steadied and it was added time before Jon Flanagan replaced the excellent Arfield.

Overall

After failing to win any of the previous 12 Old Firm games since Rodgers took over at Parkhead, Rangers needed the victory much more than Celtic.

It was a dominant performance from the home side and only the efforts of visiting keeper Craig Gordon kept the scoreline so tight.

A win for Celtic would have taken the reigning champions six points clear of the Light Blues at the top of the table, with a game in hand and a better goal difference.

Rangers are right back in the title hunt.

Post-match analysis from both managers

Gerrard said: “Listen, Celtic are still the favourites. They are still the team to catch and beat.

“I’m not going to sit here and brag because we’ve beat Celtic once. We have respect for the opposition and the other teams in the league.

“It’s a very difficult league and Celtic are still the favourites. But what we have shown today is that when we find a level then we are more than a match for them. We proved that in this 90 minutes as we were excellent.”

Rodgers said: “I said before we’d either be in a good position or a very good position.

“We’re still top with a game in hand.  It’s great for the league. It doesn’t change anything we didn’t already know before the game.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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