(Reuters) – Rangers should take confidence and belief from their first league win over Celtic since 2012, manager Steven Gerrard said after watching his side win the ‘Old Firm’ derby 1-0 at Ibrox to join the champions at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
Defensive midfielder Ryan Jack picked the perfect time to score his first Rangers goal, sidefooting home from inside the box with half an hour gone after winger Ryan Kent had cut in from the byline and laid the ball into his path.
Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon pulled off a series of outstanding saves to keep his side in the match and while Callum McGregor had a goal ruled out for offside late on the visitors rarely threatened.
Saturday’s win also gave Gerrard bragging rights over his former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, who has guided Celtic to back-to-back trebles since taking over in 2016 and had enjoyed a run of 12 successive games against Rangers without defeat.
Rangers suffered several humiliating defeats to their bitter Glasgow rivals during that run, and Gerrard, who took over in May, said the players had every right to savour the win.
“The boys are emotional because it has been a long time and some of them have had bad experiences in this fixture,” he told RangersTV.
“I thought we were the better team, I thought we dominated the majority of the game. To control the game and create the amount of chances that we did is very pleasing.”
Rangers have won a record 54 league titles but are still recovering from the financial problems that saw them reformed in the bottom tier of Scottish soccer in 2012.
Since returning to the top flight in 2016, they have struggled to bridge the gap to Celtic, who have won seven consecutive league titles and boosted their coffers with uninterrupted access to Champions League cash.
Gerrard has been brought in with a view to ending that dominance, and while Saturday’s victory was a step in the right direction the former Liverpool captain said Rangers had to raise their game even higher when they return to action after the winter shutdown.
“We should take a lot of confidence and belief from today’s victory but the message is there’s a lot of hard work to do,” he added. “Celtic are a good team … but the next couple of weeks it will feel nice to be sitting at the top of the table.”
Celtic manager Rodgers refused to make excuses for the defeat despite having several key players out injured and playmaker Tom Rogic away on international duty with Australia.
“I think on the day, Rangers were better than us, unfortunately, and we didn’t have a good game,” he told Celtic’s official website.
“You always have to be humble enough when you win, but also honest when you lose. Rangers were better than us today, and we have to accept that.”
(Writing by Peter Rutherford in Seoul; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)