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Football

30th Dec 2023

Celtic legend hails “immense” Liam Scales as Rangers fume over hand ball

Patrick McCarry

Liam Scales

Celtic 2-1 Rangers

Liam Scales, Kyoho and Callum McGregor were stand-out performers as Celtic beat Rangers to stretch their Scottish Premiership lead.

The Republic of Ireland defender has now beaten Rangers in his two starts against them, this season, and had Celtic legend John Hartson describing him as “immense” after another solid display.

Celtic went into the game knowing they needed a win to get their title defence back into their hands. A Rangers win would have put them only two points back with two games in hand. After the 2-1 win, Celtic are now eight clear.

Brendan Rodgers has come under some early pressure during his second stint at the Hoops’ helm. There was a solitary, and long-awaited, win in the Champions League and some iffy results on the domestic front. Rangers were breathing down their neck, but Celtic responded superbly.

The goalscoring was opened by Paul Bernardo after 24 minutes of the first half:

Controversy over hand-ball

It would not be an Old Firm derby without a large dollop of controversy. It duly arrived after 42 minutes.

As the ball was crossed into the Cetic box, defender Alistair Johnston tangled with on-loan Brighton forward Abdallah Sima. Johnston attempted to usher Sima away from the ball on its way out of play but his hand clearly made contact with it.

There was a 30-seconds VAR check but the game was allowed to continue. At half-time, former Celtic boss Neil Lennon felt the hand-ball was accidental but said Johnston was fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty. “It’s a penalty, all day long,” declared former Rangers striker Kris Boyd.

What did not help, here, was that VAR officials took 30 minutes to communicate the penalty was not given because Sima was deemed offside in the build-up.

Into the second-half, that Paulo Bernardo strike was then topped by a curling effort from Kyogo that Jack Butland was powerless to keep out:

Leon Balogun was red-carded for a professional, last-man foul, on 70 minutes, reducing Rangers to 10 men.

James Tavernier curled in a super free-kick to halve the deficit but Celtic held on to win 2-1.

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