I guess that if you’re Alex McLeish, it never rains but it pours. Rangers looked rather directionless as they went out of the CIS Insurance Cup to Celtic at Parkhead last night. And when Shaun Maloney hit home an absolute cracker of a first goal from fully thirty yards out, the Ibrox side were out on their feet. Much was made of the fact the Stefan Klos was at fault for conceding the goal – his positioning was terrible – but I think he is probably still rusty after such a long spell on the sidelines and so it was a risk to field him in such a crucial game. However, Maloney hit the ball so well that it would have been hard for a lot of keepers to stop it hitting the back of the net.
Rangers rallied a bit after the goal and had a few shots but they were all from long-range and fairly speculative – with a very tight Celtic defensive unit working hard to deny them even those few chances. What an improvement on earlier this season!
At half-time, Peter Lovenkrands was brought on in place of (the rather dubious) Olivier Bernard. But he remained pretty anonymous despite previous performances against Celtic. At one point, I found myself wondering when he had come onto the park.
Then Sotorios Kyrgiakos was foolish enough to clap sarcastically at the assistant referee after a foul was awarded against him. He’d been booked earlier and, as the likes of Beckham and Rooney have discovered, the referee and his officials are not to be made fools of and he was shown a second yellow card. Some could argue that Kyrgiakos was actually clapping at the Celtic fans and from the footage, you could make a case for that defence. However, the big defender should know better.
From that point on, Celtic were in complete control as Rangers grew more and more desperate. Then, in a goal-mouth tangle, Klos did something really stupid. He came out to meet Bobo Balde, who was rushing to get to a cross from Shunsuke Nakamura, and was looking at the player rather than the ball. The result? Well, Klos will have nightmares about that in years to come. The ball bounced, struck his lower back and trickled into his own net. Bobo claimed the credit but in the end it went down as a Klos own goal.
So, as far as the Old Firm goes, Celtic are clearly in the ascendancy. Alex McLeish is on the ropes and I would guess he has about ten days to sort his team out. They play Celtic again a week on Saturday, this time in the SPL. And again the game will be played at Fortress Parkhead, where Rangers have not won in five years. If Celtic win, McLeish will more than likely be shown the door. Even as a Celtic fan, I feel that would be a shame. Alex McLeish is a very good manager who is being let down by his players and will pay the price for their failings. Even on a bad day you can name a couple of stand out Rangers players. Last night there were none.