Football: Gough masks the Celtic resurgence

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The Independent Online
Rangers 1 Celtic 0

You might presume that the influx of foreigners had muddied the basic differences which underlie the Old Firm rivalry. After all, half of the 22 starting players for the first of two Glaswegian derbies in 10 days were born outside the UK - not including Richard Gough, the most decisive figure of the lot, who was born in Stockholm - and therefore unaware of the deeper emotions aroused by such occasions.

Certainly, Ibrox was awash with inconsistencies. The cries of "Papist Bastard" and "Fenian Bastard" which greeted every indiscretion by a player in green and white hoops were no less enthusiastic for the fact that every one of the 23 league goals scored this season by Marco Negri, an Italian catholic, had been greeted with religious fervour. That very morning, Negri had revealed how he had been asked by the Rangers directors on signing not to cross himself in public view as he took the field.

Negri, though, has not had to endure the sort of hostility heaped upon Maurice Johnston, the first Catholic in the modern era to wear the blue No 9 jersey, who had to walk through a makeshift "Traitor's Gate" on his arrival at Ibrox before being dubbed Super Mo. Johnston made the mistake of playing for Celtic first. Negri came from Perugia.

Whether it was the intense atmosphere or the close attentions of a miserly Celtic defence, Negri failed to score in a league game for the first time this season. Instead it was left to Gough, an Old Firm veteran, to prop up Rangers' slender supremacy with an unlikely goal, neatly tucked away with his right foot on the half-hour in only his third game back from exile in Kansas City.

It will be little consolation to the hooped half of the city that Celtic are edging closer to their rivals and look better equipped to deal with the future. The style of recent victories and the stuttering start to the season by the champions had led to the faint belief that Wim Jansen's dogged, resilient, new Celtic could spirit at least a precious point out of Ibrox. But the table this morning shows a familiar order of affairs and, until Rangers travel to Parkhead next week, Celtic fans will have to swallow a fifth successive Old Firm league defeat and another dose of the blues.

Experience won the day in the end, but the dispassionate evidence of a breathless victory suggested that, under Jansen's guidance, Celtic have already adopted a European style which has so far proved well beyond Walter Smith and Rangers. The Dutchman needs a replacement for Pierre van Hooijdonk to take some of the strain off the slender shoulders of Simon Donnelly, but if Celtic can master the art of counter-attacking at pace more consistently than they did at Ibrox, encouraging midfielders to break forward in support of the strikers and defending in depth, they will be far better prepared to prosper in the Champions' League. The hard part will be wrestling the title from Rangers' grip.

Had Andy Goram not made two remarkable low saves before Rangers had scored, both from Henrik Larsson headers, the balance of power might have crossed the divide already. But, prompted by Paul Gascoigne's full array of skills, which shone through the duller midfield talents of Wieghorst, Thern and Gattuso, Rangers were just too strong. Until the next time.

Goal: Gough (29) 1-0.

Rangers (3-5-2): Goram; Porrini, Gough, Bjorklund; McCall, Thern, Gascoigne (Albertz, 89), Gattuso, Cleland; Negri, Laudrup (Durie, 84). Substitute not used: McCoist.

Celtic (4-4-1-1): Gould; Boyd (Lambert, 73), Rieper, Stubbs (Annoni, 16), Mahe; McNamara, Burley, Wieghorst, Blinker (Thom, 60); Larsson; Donnelly.

Referee: K Clark (Paisley).

Bookings: Rangers: Gough, Gascoigne, Gattuso. Celtic: Mahe, Boyd, Larsson, Blinker, Burley. Sending off: Mahe.

Attendance: 50,082.

Man of the match: Gough.

l Celtic's Alan Stubbs faces the prospect of a long spell out after a clash with Marco Negri at Ibrox . An accidental mid-air collision on Saturday left Stubbs with a suspected fracture of the bone around an eye socket.