A sensational Scott McDonald volley was enough to secure a 1-0 victory for Celtic over Rangers in the second Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox on Saturday. In what was a tame affair by Old Firm standards, McDonald sealed the points for Celtic with the Parkhead club's first shot on target in the 57th minute. The win ended a 14-month unbeaten run for Rangers at Ibrox, and sends Celtic seven points clear over their bitter rivals at the top of the Scottish Premier League.
Rangers, who won 4-2 at Parkhead earlier in the season, dominated possession and will rue a number of early missed opportunities as they fall further behind Celtic in the race for the title. Celtic manager Gordon Strachan, who was recording only his second win at Ibrox since he took over from Martin O'Neill, said his side had kept their mistakes at the back to a minimum.
"It was not a classic match in the first half by any means," he said. "I felt we had more to offer and we got better in the second-half. I thought Scott McDonald was phenomenal and (Georgios) Samaras got better as the game went on, and together they produced a spectacular goal."
Rangers manager Walter Smith felt his side had started the match well. "There were few opportunities for either side and we had a little bit more territorial advantage," Smith said. "We missed our best opportunity of the game and Celtic went up and scored just afterwards, and that changed the whole complexion of the game."
The game started at a frantic rate and it was the home side who took control of early proceedings. Steve Davis was the first to come close in the third minute; the midfielder's pace took him past Lee Naylor on the right and he fired a shot in at Artur Boruc. The Polish keeper fumbled the save and the rebound landed at the Northern Ireland international's feet, but he blasted his effort high and wide.
Rangers had the ball in the net after ten minutes. Boruc knocked the ball into his own net from a Davis corner under heavy pressure from Kirk Broadfoot, but the referee ruled that the Rangers defender had fouled the keeper.
Celtic had their first real chance in the 21st minute when McDonald teed up Samaras at the edge of the box. The Greek striker twisted and turned before pulling the trigger, but Allan McGregor watched his weak effort trundle past his post.
Kris Boyd should have opened the scoring a minute into the second half. Barry Ferguson picked up the ball just inside the Celtic half and ran at the Hoops defence, before sliding the ball to Boyd. The SPL's top-scorer took a touch before letting fly but Boruc was out to block his shot and the ball rebounded off the striker before going out.
Celtic took the lead through McDonald with their first shot on target in the 57th minute. A long ball over the top was flicked on by Samaras to McDonald. The Australian controlled it on the chest and then took a touch before turning his marker Broadfoot and unleashing an unstoppable volley into the top corner of the net.
Rangers then began a period of sustained pressure. The home side enjoyed the majority of possession and kept Celtic penned back in their own half but, to the frustration of the Rangers fans, Boruc was not troubled in goal.
In other matches, Dundee United stayed third after edging a 1-0 win over strugglers Falkirk with Scott Robertson's first-half goal proving decisive to extend their opponents losing streak to four. Hearts slipped to a 1-0 defeat, their first in seven matches, at the hands of fifth-placed Aberdeen as Lee Miller's 36th minute goal split the teams.
Scoring honours went to Motherwell's English marksman Chris Porter, whose hat-trick inspired his side to a 3-2 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle, ending a winless streak of five matches but handing their rivals a fifth successive defeat in the process.