Celtic 3 Rangers 0: Strachan has title in sight as gloom gathers at Ibrox

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The Independent Online

Celtic are heading to the Champions' League next season, Rangers to European oblivion and Alex McLeish for the sack. Those are the easy conclusions drawn from the Old Firm derby on Saturday.

As for Roy Keane, "don't bother asking" was Gordon Strachan's take. If he is keen on Keane, it was a strange way of showing it. Strachan was more relaxed talking about his side's progress to the top of the Scottish Premier League. "I couldn't be any happier," he said after this result, Celtic's second win over Rangers in 10 days, and their 13th unbeaten game on the bounce.

He has plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Shunsuke Nakamura was tired from a trip to Tokyo for a friendly but still played well and had a key role in all three goals. For the first he combined with Shaun Maloney to set up John Hartson. Then he crossed for Bobo Baldé to head in for 2-0, and combined with Stilian Petrov to create the third goal for the 19-year-old Irish international Aiden McGeady to score his first Celtic goal.

Strachan has match-changing midfielders in Nakamura and Petrov, and pace, versatility and skill in Maloney and McGeady. While Celtic's defence could do with back-up, Strachan has options in all other areas. The title looks theirs for the taking.

If Rangers carry on like this they will not only miss out on the top two places - and Champions' League qualification - but third place too, and any European football next season, for the first time in 25 years. Depressing statistics rain down on Rangers fans as frequently these days as lame excuses from their team and manager. This is their worst league start for 22 years. They have won only two games in 12 now.

To make matters worse, Dado Prso limped out of the game on Saturday with a hamstring problem, meaning he will miss Wednesday's Champions' League match at Porto. McLeish promises that he will still be in the dugout. "I have to keep fighting and the players have to keep fighting for themselves to get their top form and belief back as soon as possible," he said.

Goals: Hartson (12) 1-0; Baldé (56) 2-0; McGeady (61) 3-0.

Celtic (4-4-2): Boruc; Telfer, Baldé, McManus, Camara; Nakamura (Agathe, 76), Lennon, Petrov, McGeady; Hartson, Maloney (Thompson, 57). Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Virgo, Lawson, Varga, Wallace.

Rangers (4-4-2): Waterreus; Hutton (Lovenkrands, 53), Andrews, Kyrgiakos, Murray; Ricksen, Hemdani, Ferguson, Namouchi; Jeffers, Prso (Thompson, 66). Substitutes not used: Klos (gk), Rae, Pierre-Fanfan, Burke, McCormack.

Referee: D McDonald (Scotland).

Booked: Celtic: Nakamura, McManus; Rangers: Andrews, Namouchi.

Attendance: 58,997.

Man of the match: McGeady.

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