Sutton strike sparks rout of Rangers

Celtic celebrate first Old Firm derby win over bitter rivals for 21 months as O'Neill enjoys 'immense' performance
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An incredible day in the east end of Glasgow yesterday underlined why the Old Firm derby is probably still the greatest show on earth.

An incredible day in the east end of Glasgow yesterday underlined why the Old Firm derby is probably still the greatest show on earth.

Don't take my word for it. Ask Martin O'Neill, or better still Noel Gallagher. The Oasis man was one of the guests in the directors' box at Parkhead and never even had to get up and sing for his supper.

The Celtic fans were doing that for him, as they lifted the roof off this cavernous stadium by celebrating an astonishing rout of their bitter rivals with a rendition of Roll With It. Long afterwards, Gallagher strolled on the Parkhead turf with a Celtic scarf around his neck, but while the adopted Celtic fan will take home a few tourist memories, O'Neill and everyone else on the green half of this divided city are likely to need surgery to remove the smiles from their faces.

O'Neill needed only 90 minutes to be bitten by the Old Firm bug: admittedly 90 astonishing minutes as his team upset the odds and recorded their first win over Rangers in 21 months with one of the biggest scorelines in the 122-year history of the contest.

Later he admitted his first derby as Celtic's manager had exceeded his wildest expectations. "I could not have dreamed of this start," he said. "We could play for another 100 years and never get a start like that. The performance was immense but I am not getting carried away. I'll be delighted tonight and tomorrow, but then it's finished with. There's a long way to go."

Three goals inside the opening 11 minutes laid the platform for Celtic's success, one of them from the much-maligned Chris Sutton, who wrapped up the rout in added time.

In between, Henrik Larsson scored a sublime double and Celtic's supporters would probably have broken all noise levels had Rangers not clawed their way back sufficiently to scare O'Neill.

"It was only when Sutton made it 6-2 that I felt safe," said the drained O'Neill. "In terms of atmosphere and football, you will not find a better game than this anywhere in Europe." Any fears Celtic and O'Neill might have nursed, given Rangers' recent dominance, were blown away by the opening 11 minutes.

Lubomir Moravcik's corner in the opening minute was glanced on by Sutton but headed back by Alan Stubbs and then stabbed on by Larsson into the path of Sutton. The striker needed no second invitation and swept in a right-foot shot.

Before Rangers could compose themselves, they were 2-0 down in nine minutes. Again Moravcik supplied the corner, Sutton's run to the near post was simply a decoy and Stilian Petrov took advantage to guide a header into the far corner.

Two minutes later, O'Neill was in dreamland. Moravcik again did the damage, bursting into the box. His first cutback was blocked, but the Slovakian rolled another pass into the path of Paul Lambert, who hammered a fierce 14-yard shot past his old Borussia Dortmund team-mate Stefan Klos.

The Rangers manager, Dick Advocaat, was so furious with his porous defence that he withdrew Fernando Ricksen, his £3.5m summer signing, and brought on Tugay. But it was the departure of Lambert on a stretcher in the 35th minute, with a badly torn groin, that handed the initiative back to Rangers. They took it. Rod Wallace got past Stubbs to the byline in the 41st minute to whip a cross to the back post for Claudio Reyna to squeeze a header past Jonathan Gould.

O'Neill admitted later that he told his players in the dressing- room to keep calm, but there was little of that around Parkhead when Larsson made it 4-1 in the 50th minute.

Sutton provided a crucial knockdown from Gould's long kick but the Swedish striker still had a lot to do. His pace burned off Tugay, then he skipped past the laborious Bert Konterman before deftly lobbing the stranded Klos for a sumptuous goal.

Dodds briefly gave Rangers hope by drilling in a penalty four minutes later, after Wallace had been pushed by Stéphane Mahé, but Larsson inflicted more damage with a glorious glancing header from the hugely impressive Bobby Petta's free-kick in the 62nd minute.

The frustration got too much for Barry Ferguson, who foolishly earned a second caution by throwing the ball at Gould, and then salt was rubbed into Ibrox wounds when Mahé's dash down the left in added time allowed Sutton to lunge in to stab home his second goal. In the words of Mr Gallagher, Celtic were simply mad for it.

Celtic (3-5-2): Gould; Valgaeren, Stubbs, Mahe; McNamara, Lambert (Mjallby, 36), Moravcik (Boyd, 55), Petrov, Petta; Sutton, Larsson (Burchill, 86). Substitutes not used: Kerr, Berkovic.

Rangers (4-4-2): Klos; Ricksen (Tugay, 23), Konterman, Amoruso, van Bronckhorst; Reyna, Ferguson, Vidmar (Kanchelskis, 66), McCann (Lovenkrands, 76); Dodds, Wallace. Substitutes not used: Charbonnier, Malcolm.

Referee: S Dougal.

Bookings: Celtic Moravcik, McNamara, Boyd. Rangers Dodds, McCann, Vidmar, Ferguson, Reyna. Sending-off: Ferguson.

Man of the match: Petta.

Attendance: 59,476.