Miller double lifts Rangers
Two goals from Kenny Miller slashed Celtic's lead at the summit to a single point as Rangers claimed victory in the first Old Firm derby of the season. The striker returned to haunt his former club once again with two early goals to put the Scottish champions in the driving seat at Ibrox. Aiden McGeady did manage to pull a goal back from the penalty spot, but his strike was not enough to prevent Tony Mowbray's first derby as Celtic manager ending in defeat.
Rangers manager Walter Smith was forced to name an unfamiliar side when Madjid Bougherra and Lee McCulloch were both ruled out with a flu bug and Sasa Papac was asked to deputise in the heart of defence with David Weir, while youngster Andrew Little was given his first taste of the famous fixture at full-back. Kevin Thomson also missed out with a knee injury, but Miller was able to start up front with Kris Boyd despite fears over a persistent hamstring problem, which will require the attention of a specialist in Germany this week.
Celtic also shuffled their pack. Danny Fox and Barry Robson both picked up knocks in training, meaning a first domestic appearance of the season for Lee Naylor and a debut for new signing Zheng Zhi.
Little looked uncomfortable from the outset and allowed Shaun Maloney an early chance on goal, but Allan McGregor did well to block with his legs to keep the scoreline level in the opening minutes. Instead, it was Rangers who surged into the lead with just eight minutes gone, taking advantage of shocking defending from Celtic. Boyd slipped a pass through for Miller, who forced his way past Stephen McManus and Glenn Loovens, before dispatching past Artur Boruc into the back of the net as Ibrox erupted.
Celtic then failed in their attempt to win a penalty when Maloney claimed he was fouled in the box by David Weir, before picking up a yellow card for diving after going to ground again moments later.
Little had been shifted to centre-forward - the position he plays for Northern Ireland - but his Old Firm debut was over with just 14 minutes on the clock and Nacho Novo was thrown into the action. Miller found the back of the net again two minutes later. This time, a Steven Whittaker ball intended for Boyd was missed by the striker and broke for Miller who shrugged off Loovens before sending a low shot past the Hoops goalkeeper.
The Scottish champions had enjoyed a dream start to the game, but found themselves pegged back after 25 minutes when referee Craig Thomson eventually did point to the penalty spot. It proved to be a memorable maiden outing for China captain Zhi as he was felled by Papac and McGeady stepped up to claim his first ever goal at Ibrox, despite the best efforts of McGregor, who managed to get a hand to the strike.
There was a further blow for Rangers just before half-time when Boyd was forced out of the action following a clash of heads with Landry N'Guemo, paving the way for Kyle Lafferty to make his first appearance for the club this season after a spell on the sidelines through suspension and injury. Miller could have claimed his hat-trick shortly after the restart with a ferocious strike which flashed across the face of goal and past the post.
But Celtic also looked dangerous as they chased the equaliser and Scott McDonald tested McGregor with a point-blank shot, which was smothered by the Rangers goalkeeper. Mark Wilson became the second Celtic player to be booked for simulation, before Maloney squandered a great opportunity to restore parity. Substitute Pat McCourt's cross found Wilson out on the right and he teed up the shot for Maloney, but he rifled inches past the post when he looked certain to score.
At the other end, Whittaker picked out Novo at the back post with a long ball, but he nodded past the upright amid claims of being pushed, before seeing his attempt to lob Boruc swatted out of the danger area by the Celtic goalkeeper.