Rangers restored their commanding nine-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership with an 8-0 humbling of Hamilton on Sunday as Celtic bounced back to form with a 4-1 win at Motherwell.
Steven Gerrard’s men have played two more matches than their Glasgow rivals but showed why they are now the bookmakers’ favourites to end Celtic’s record-equalling run of nine straight league titles.
Hamilton shocked the hosts on their last visit to Ibrox in March but Rangers are a transformed side since Scottish football’s return in August, unbeaten in 20 games in all competitions this season.
Joe Aribo, Kemar Roofe and James Tavernier all scored twice, while Scott Arfield and Brandon Barker were also on target against the rock-bottom Accies.
Gerrard hailed his rampant team, who scored eight goals in the top flight for the first time since 1981.
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) November 8, 2020
“It has been coming, we have threatened to do that,” he said. “But the pleasing thing today was that we were very clinical.”
But he remained cautious despite the thumping win.
“Look, we are not at the stage yet where we can play with ego in any game or at any stage. We are trying to become a winning team, a successful team. We are in no position to disrespect any opponent or any team.”
– Celtic struggles –
In stark contrast to Rangers’ fine European form, Celtic suffered a humiliating 4-1 home defeat to Sparta Prague on Thursday.
Mohamed Elyounoussi faced a backlash from ex-Celtic players for being seen on his mobile phone after being substituted in midweek, but responded with a hat-trick at Fir Park to ease the pressure on manager Neil Lennon.
“I thought we were really well motivated, we looked far more like ourselves,” said Lennon. “The players responded brilliantly, it’s a fantastic response and win.
“They know they can play a lot better than they’ve showed. There was better body language about us today, better hunger. That’s what we are looking for, that’s a really good barometer for us now.”
Elyounoussi settled any nerves among the visitors early on as he pounced after Albian Ajeti’s strike came back off the post.
Tom Rogic then teed up the on-loan Southampton winger for his second from close range.
Celtic’s defence has been the source of most of Lennon’s problems in recent weeks and their frailty from set-pieces was again exposed when Declan Gallagher’s header halved Motherwell’s deficit 18 minutes from time.
However, Elyounoussi quickly responded with a towering header of his own at the back post to restore Celtic’s two-goal cushion.
“That was a big misunderstanding, I let my feet do the talking,” said Elyounoussi on the controversy over the phone.
“It was a good day. We got goals, we showed character, responded from Thursday’s game and got the points.”
France under-21 stars Odsonne Edouard and Olivier Ntcham have also failed to match their standards of previous seasons so far this campaign.
But they came off the bench to combine for Celtic’s fourth as Edouard teed up Ntcham to side-foot into the bottom corner.