Sunday, February 28, 2010
The cruellest blow yet to Tony Mowbray should prove the definitive one. Maurice Edu's goal, seconds from the end of a pulsating Old Firm derby, means Rangers are 10 points clear of their city rivals with a game in hand. The Celtic manager requires a minor miracle to take the championship and, thereby, avoid obvious speculation over his future.
Mowbray will cite the dismissal of Scott Brown as the key moment here. The Celtic captain was shown a red card after 66 minutes following an apparently innocuous clash with Kyle Lafferty. At the end of a week in which Celtic's gripes with referees were made public, perhaps such controversy was inevitable.
The Ibrox atmosphere was noticeably raucous, even for this fixture. The predictable, if still disappointing, disruption of a minute's silence for the late Rangers goalkeeper Gerry Neef poured petrol on an already wild fire. Celtic's spat with officialdom, front-page headlines about the private life of the Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor and the basic need for the visitors to avoid defeat to prolong the Premier League title race were pertinent factors.
Kris Boyd passed up an early opportunity for the hosts, rounding Artur Boruc but shooting into the side netting. Robbie Keane, another subject of intrigue here, replied with a fierce volley which McGregor did well to parry. Marc-Antoine Fortuné missed a more meaningful chance, two minutes before the interval, as he wastefully screwed wide.
Mowbray hauled off the anonymous Aiden McGeady after an hour. The fact that his replacement was Georgios Samaras highlighted the manager's intention to finish the game with four strikers on the pitch.
That plan was disrupted within minutes as Dougie McDonald, the referee, adjudged Brown to be guilty of violent conduct. Mowbray introduced Ki Sung-yueng to fill Brown's midfield void but service to Keane remained in short supply.
Rangers hardly looked more dangerous but supplied the killer touch. It was not a thing of beauty, Edu scrambling over the line after Boruc had blocked a Boyd attempt. That matters not one iota in the blue half of Glasgow.