Samaras the difference on day of remembrance
Rangers 0 Celtic 2
Monday 03 January 2011
On a day that began with a perfectly-observed silence, it was the Celtic supporters making all the noise after an Old Firm game that sent them four points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League. Georgios Samaras struck twice for the visitors at Ibrox to leave Rangers needing to make good use of their two games in hand.
Former captains John Greig and Billy McNeill led out the teams as both sets of fans perfectly observed a minute's silence ahead of kick-off to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Ibrox Disaster, when 66 Rangers fans lost their lives. Rangers were also showing their respects to former player Avi Cohen, who died recently.
After the game the Rangers manager, Walter Smith, lamented his side's defending. "We've got to be disappointed with the way we conceded the goals, they were poor goals from our own point of view," he said. "We have got nobody to blame but ourselves in that respect. I am disappointed that we lost in the manner we did. If Celtic had scored a couple of good ones, it might have been easier for us to take."
His Celtic counterpart, Neil Lennon, revealed that a conversation with Gordon Strachan led to Samaras playing on his own up front. "I am very proud of the players and performance," he said. "I didn't think there was one failure there today.
"We were very resilient, we dominated and I thought Samaras was unplayable. I spoke to Gordon about that lone-striker's role. Samaras can do that and it was something we have been working on. His movement and composure for the first goal was great and although he got a lot of confidence from the way he started the game, he got a huge lift from the goal."
Youngster Jamie Ness was handed a memorable first start for Rangers after Steven Naismith failed to recover from a hamstring injury in time. Celtic's new signing Freddie Ljungberg failed to even make the squad after picking up a virus, while captain Scott Brown was suspended.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between in a scrappy opening spell, but Celtic threatened when Paddy McCourt slipped a lovely pass to James Forrest in front of goal only for Lee McCulloch to make a timely intervention before he could unleash a shot.
Rangers' Steven Whittaker had the chance to snatch the opener at the end of a disappointing half when he collected a flighted cross from Vladimir Weiss, but he miskicked under pressure from Mark Wilson.
The match eventually sparked into life after 62 minutes when Samaras opened the scoring for Celtic. Richard Foster lost possession to Joe Ledley, who punted the ball forward for Samaras to race past Allan McGregor, who had charged yards outside his box, before coolly slotting home.
Celtic doubled their lead seven minutes later when the referee pointed to the penalty spot after Madjid Bougherra clipped Samaras in the box. The Greece international dusted himself down before sending a firm, low shot past McGregor.
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