Rangers’ substitute Maurice Edu struck in injury time to seal a 1-0 win over ten-man Celtic here Sunday to send the defending champions ten-points clear in the Scottish Premier League.
The American, who had a goal chopped off in the first-half, popped up to force the ball over the line with the last kick of the match.
Celtic captain Scott Brown received a straight red after clashing with Kyle Laffery in the second-half.Ranger
The win all but extinguishes Celtic’s faint hopes of catching Rangers in the race for the championship with Walter Smith’s men also having the bonus of a game in hand over their rivals.
“We struggled a bit in the first-half but I felt we played far better in the second,” the Rangers manager said.
“I didn’t think at that stage we were going to get the goal so we were delighted obviously when we did.”
Tony Mowbray thought his side had done enough for a draw.
“I think in the first-half we created the best chances. The second-half they started very strongly and it was compounded by our sending off.
“We defended resolutely and it looked like we were going to see the game out but ultimately it wasn’t to be.”
Mowbray had named an unchanged side from the one which defeated Dundee United last weekend meaning five players made their Old Firm debuts. The return of Lafferty for Rangers meant Nacho Novo dropped to the bench.
In an explosive start Celtic had a chance within 30 seconds.
Slack defending from Sasa Papac allowed Marc-Antoine Fortune to pick out Robbie Keane with a cutback but his shot from 14 yards was saved by Allan McGregor.
Rangers hit back almost immediately when Steven Davis released SPL top-scorer Kris Boyd after a surging run through the Celtic defence but Artur Boruc forced him out wide and he hit his shot into the side netting.
Referee Dougie McDonald dished out yellow cards to Madjid Bougherra and Fortune in the opening ten minutes as tempers began to flare.
Edu replaced the injured Lee McCulloch in the 26th minute and the American thought he had scored with his first touch.
The ball fell to the midfielder 20 yards out and he rifled a volley past Boruc into the bottom corner of the net but it was disallowed after Kenny Miller was adjudged to have handled the ball earlier in the move.
A minute later Miller had the chance to make amends as he used his pace to race past Thomas Rogne into the box but Boruc stood up and blocked his lofted shot. McGregor showed great reactions to save Keane’s fierce volley from the penalty spot.
Fortune wasted a golden chance to fire Celtic ahead on the stroke of half-time when he waltzed through the Rangers defence but then fired wide of the post with only the keeper to beat.
Rangers were on the front foot in the second-half and were appealing for a penalty when Edu appeared to be pushed in the box as he was about to shoot.
Boruc blocked a powerful low drive from Davis before recovering to save the Northern Irishman’s shot on the rebound.
Then Hoops captain Brown was sent off in the 65th minute.
The midfielder received a straight red after he collided with Lafferty and then wrestled with him on the ground, appearing to butt the chest of the Rangers man.
Edu came close when he side-footed Papac’s cross over the bar from eight yards out before he broke the deadlock in injury time. Bougherra fired a shot low at Boruc who then made a point blank save from Boyd’s follow-up but couldn’t stop Edu bundling the ball over the line from close range.