TO GABRIEL AMATO went the promise of a kiss, after the spoils of this latest chapter in the Old Firm war had been served up. For Paul Lambert though, went only a double kick in the teeth.
Celtic's captain was not around to see Amato seal Rangers' success in the first Glasgow derby of the season, but Dick Advocaat was. The normally unemotional Rangers manager was so moved by Amato's solo goal that he said later: "Normally, Gabriel makes me want to get out my gun, but after that goal I wanted to kiss him - it was brilliant."
Poor Lambert was rushed to hospital with smashed teeth and concussion, the price of a calamitous moment which cost his side a penalty and allowed Rangers back into the game at 2-2. It also cost the Scotland midfielder his place in the two Euro 2000 play-off games against England.
John Barnes almost matched Lambert for pained expression as he faced the press later to describe his Old Firm baptism of fire.
"Paul has got so much swelling, we can't say if his jaw is broken," said the Celtic coach. Barnes felt "aggrieved" about the penalty, adding: "I felt it was dubious."
In Lambert's absence, Celtic were simply swamped in the second half as Lorenzo Amoruso and Amato built on Jorg Albertz's penalty and an earlier strike from Jonatan Johansson to respond from the wobbles that Eyal Berkovic's audacious double had instigated.
The centre of attention beforehand had been Ian Wright, who, along with Barnes and three other of his Celtic team-mates, Berkovic, Stilian Petrov and Oliver Tebily, were making their Old Firm debuts.
However, this is a game which supersedes the cult of the individual and Wright found himself shoved out of the spotlight by as pulsating a derby as there has been between Glasgow's bitter enemies in their 111-year rivalry.
The occasion was a personal triumph for Johansson, blamed greatly for the profligacy in midweek against Bayern Munich which cost Rangers their Champions' League status, but the Finland forward quickly illustrated to the sell-out crowd that his poise had returned.
Taking an Albertz pass, Johansson galloped clear and thrashed a shot that was so fierce it almost took the crossbar off its hinges. Eleven minutes later, however, Johansson only needed a deft poke at the ball to provide Rangers with the lead.
Celtic failed miserably to deal with Amato's flick-on from an Albertz throw-in, the ball squirmed out of Jonathan Gould's grasp and Johansson pounced to stab it into an unguarded net.
However, Celtic responded instantly as Berkovic equalised within two minutes. Rangers never grasped the threat posed by the little Israeli and allowed him to accept Jackie McNamara's pass, run into the box and exchange passes with Mark Viduka before casually rolling his shot past Stefan Klos from a tight angle.
While Wright was finding the marking of Amoruso and Arthur Numan suffocating, Viduka did not. The Australian was certainly given free rein by Amoruso in the 42nd minute, when Viduka robbed the sloppy Rangers captain and raced in towards Klos, before checking inside to elude Craig Moore. Before he could finish things off, Berkovic arrived and arrogantly passed the ball past the stunned goalkeeper to put Celtic in front.
The lead lasted three, or to be more precise, seven minutes, because four minutes of stoppage time had somehow elapsed when Albertz appeared to take off before any impact from Lambert. But that did not stop the German stroking in the penalty which resuscitated the home side.
Rangers grabbed their lifeline gratefully and went for the jugular, killing the match within 20 minutes of the second half with a wave of movement which left Barnes' defence bemused.
Amoruso atoned for his error by restoring Rangers' lead in the 50th minute. Alan Stubbs foolishly fouled Giovanni van Bronckhorst and, after Albertz tapped the free-kick sideways, Amoruso thrashed a shot past Gould from 25 yards.
Gould kept Celtic alive by standing his ground when Johansson rampaged through nine minutes later, but, in the 66th minute Amato killed the match with a sublime goal. True, the robust striker was fortunate after cutting inside to receive a break of the ball as his intended pass to Johansson deflected off a Celtic leg, but then he rounded Gould and squeezed in a shot from an outrageous angle.
Goals: Johansson (19) 1-0; Berkovic (21) 1-1; Berkovic (42) 1-2; Albertz (pen 45) 2-2; Amoruso (49) 3-2; Amato (66) 4-2.
Rangers (4-4-2): Klos; Porrini, Amoruso, Moore, Numan; Reyna, Ferguson, Van Bronckhorst (Vidmar, 89), Albertz; Johansson (McCann, 77), Amato (Durie, 77). Substitutes not used: Charbonnier (gk), Nicholson.
Celtic (4-3-1-2): Gould; McNamara, Stubbs, Tebily, Riseth; Lambert (Mjallby, 45), Petrov (Blinker, 57), Burley; Berkovic; Wright (Burchill, 78), Viduka. Substitutes not used: Kharin (gk), Moravcik.
Referee: K Clark.
Bookings: Rangers: Van Bronckhorst. Celtic: Burley, Lambert, Petrov, Blinker.
Man of the match: Amato.
Attendance: 50,020.Reuse content