Scottish Premiership: Willie Collum to referee Motherwell v Rangers

Willie Collum will take charge of Saturday’s lunchtime encounter at Fir Park, with Bobby Madden appointed to Celtic’s televised match against Hearts on Sunday.

willie-collum-referee-albion-rovers-v-celtic-22nd-jan-2017
Solid: Collum issued just one yellow card and was on top of proceedings during Celtic’s 3-0 Scottish Cup win at Albion Rovers last weekend (Picture from Sky Sports)

WILLIE Collum will be the referee for Rangers’ televised Scottish Premiership match at Motherwell on Saturday.

The Euro 2016 official, who turned 38 last week, will be in the middle as the Gers make the trip to Fir Park for the lunchtime game live on Sky Sports (KO 12:45 GMT).

He will be assisted by David McGeachie and Gordon Crawford, with Euan Anderson on fourth official duties.

Collum – who won’t have far to travel from his Lanarkshire residence – will oversee his 29th game of the season in all competitions.

He has so far brandished 90 yellow cards, sent off five players and awarded nine penalties.

The Religious Education teacher will have no excuse for taking his eye off the ball after visiting a Specsavers store this week, in recognition of the partnership the opticians share with the Scottish FA.

It will be a 13th top-flight match of the campaign for Collum, who has handled a League Cup Final, two Scottish Cup Finals and the 2015 Uefa Super Cup.

The Glasgow-born whistler will control his fourth Rangers game of the campaign – and first of 2017 – after sending off Philippe Senderos in their 5-1 Old Firm derby defeat at Celtic in September before 1-0 victories at Inverness in October and home to Dundee in November.

Meanwhile, Collum will be in the middle for a third Motherwell match of 2016-17 after their 4-2 derby win over Hamilton in September – in which he awarded the Steelmen a spotkick – and 1-1 draw at St Johnstone last month.

It will be the third time he takes charge of a fixture involving the two sides – after Rangers’ 2-1 win in a League Cup semi-final at Hampden in 2011 and a goalless draw at Ibrox in the league in 2012, both of which passed without major incident.

Mark Warburton’s second-placed Rangers will be looking to extend the gap over Aberdeen in third, which currently stands at two points, while Mark McGhee’s Motherwell could move into the top six with a first top-flight win over the Gers since December 2002.

The sides met as recently as last weekend as Kenny Miller scored twice for Rangers, who came from behind to beat the Steelmen in their Scottish Cup fourth round tie at Ibrox.


Madden gets another top-flight test

Bobby Madden in action
Well-known: Madden has established himself as a referee domestically in the Scottish top-flight and on the European stage in the Europa League (Picture from Sky Sports)

Bobby Madden will take charge of Celtic’s televised encounter with Hearts on Sunday.

The 38-year-old will be in the middle when the champions host the Jambos at Parkhead in front of the Sky cameras (KO 13:00 GMT).

His assistants will be Graham Chambers and Stephen Mitchell, while Greg Aitken will be on fourth official duties.

Madden was also in the middle for a 3-1 Celtic win over Hearts last season in his only other experience of a fixture between the sides.

He enjoyed a largely quiet display but booked six players and sent off Hearts defender Juwon Oshaniwa late on for a second yellow card.

It will only be the 18th game Madden will have officiated this season, after missing two months as he bravely battled thyroid cancer.

Overall, he has dished out 48 yellow cards, two red cards and pointed to the penalty spot 11 times in his 17 matches so far.

The East Kilbride whistler, who was an additional assistant referee at Euro 2016, will handle his third Celtic game of the campaign after their 4-1 win over 10-man Aberdeen in August and 2-1 success against Dundee in December – both also at Celtic Park.

His only Hearts match so far was their 3-0 victory over Motherwell at Tynecastle in November – in which only two players were cautioned.

Madden’s biggest career honour to date came in Celtic’s 2-0 win over 10-man Dundee United in the 2015 League Cup showpiece at Hampden Park.

Both sides were in action in midweek – with Hearts beating Raith Rovers 4-2 after extra time in a Scottish Cup replay, while Celtic edged past St Johnstone 1-0 in their game in hand in the league.

You can see the rest of the SPFL appointments for this weekend here.

Scottish Premiership: Celtic take New Year honours in Old Firm derby

Scott Sinclair scores the winner as Celtic claim the New Year honours in Glasgow by coming from behind to beat Rangers at Ibrox and earn a 15th successive league win.

  •  Old Firm derby on Hogmanay at packed Ibrox
  •  Miller puts Rangers ahead early on
  •  Dembele and Sinclair turn it around for Celtic
  •  Hoops maintain unbeaten domestic record
players-tunnel
Adversaries: Celtic and Rangers went head to head for the 404th time in a competitive game – and the first at Ibrox since March 2012 (Picture from Sky Sports)

Celtic claimed the New Year honours in Glasgow, coming from behind to beat Rangers and record a 15th successive league win in the first Old Firm derby at Ibrox in almost five years. 

Veteran striker Kenny Miller rewarded Rangers’ early enterprise by firing them into the lead from close range against his former club.

With their first shot on target, Moussa Dembele drew the Hoops level with a spectacular finish for his fifth goal against Rangers this season.

Celtic upped the ante in the second half and showed their powers of recovery, as Scott Sinclair scored the winner with 20 minutes remaining.

As 2017 approaches, Brendan Rodgers’ men open up a 19-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership, with a game in hand to come against St Johnstone next month, heading into the winter break – the biggest ever advantage at this stage of a top-flight season.

The champions, seeking a sixth successive league title and first under Rodgers, have a hat-trick of derby wins this term after September’s 5-1 demolition at Celtic Park and the League Cup semi-final success the following month.

Rangers can take plenty of positives, with Barrie McKay excellent as an attacking force, but Mark Warburton’s side, who are now only two points ahead of third-placed Aberdeen, face a battle to secure the runners-up spot after suffering a first home defeat in 34 games.

Lining up with a back three, the hosts hit the front by pressing Celtic in wide areas from the outset.

It paid dividends in the 12th minute when Josh Windass released James Tavernier to cross low for Miller – wearing the captain’s armband in the injured Lee Wallace‘s absence – who finished well inside the six yard box for his 10th Old Firm goal.

But in the aftermath, fellow forward Joe Garner had to be stretchered off and was replaced by Martyn Waghorn.

Rangers continued to look menacing and ask questions of the Celtic defence but, after Sinclair struck the post and Clint Hill put the rebound behind for a corner, the visitors responded.

Stuart Armstrong’s deep delivery picked out Dembele, who had escaped the attentions of Danny Wilson, and the Frenchman instantly brought the ball under control before unleashing a powerful left-foot volley into the roof of the net for goal number 19 this season.

Celtic came out stronger in the second period to take a firm grip of proceedings, with Wes Foderingham in the Rangers goal the much busier keeper.

Armstrong and James Forrest brought good saves from the ex-Swindon man before Dembele hit the frame of the goal with a mishit effort after good work from Calum McGregor – returning after a one-match ban.

Rangers continued to offer a threat as McKay’s long-range effort and a Wilson header tested Celtic stopper Craig Gordon – celebrating his 34th birthday.

But the visitors struck the decisive blow to complete the turnaround in front of their delighted supporters as substitute Patrick Roberts found Armstrong in space and his inviting cross was touched in by Sinclair for his ninth of the campaign.

rodgers
Worse for wear: Rodgers appeared to injure himself whilst celebrating Sinclair’s goal (Picture from Sky Sports)

Celtic could have gone further ahead in the closing stages as Armstrong, Sinclair and sub Nir Bitton produced more saves from Foderingham.

And Rangers might have snatched a late leveller through Miller, who hit the base of the post from a well-weighted centre by Andy Halliday.

However, as referee Steven McLean – excellent on his Old Firm derby debut – blew the final whistle, the hosts could only reflect on an encouraging display despite their best efforts.

Meanwhile, Celtic ensured they signed off for 2016 by maintaining their domestic bliss after proving once again why they are looking such an unstoppable force this season.


TEAMS:

rangers-xi

Substitutes: Waghorn (on for Garner 16′), Dodoo (on for Windass 65′) and Forrester (on for Holt 83′).
Not used: Gilks (GK), Hodson, Crooks, O’Halloran.
Booked: Hill, Tavernier, Windass
Goals: Miller (12′)

 

celtic-xi

Substitutes: Roberts (on for Forrest 68′) and Bitton (on for McGregor 86′).
Not used: De Vries (GK), Toure, Gamboa, Mackay-Steven, Griffiths.
Booked: Simunovic, Lustig, Brown
Goals: Dembele (33′), Sinclair (70′)


MATCH OFFICIALS:

Steven McLean referee

Referee: Steven McLean – 9/10
Assistant referees: Douglas Ross and Frank Connor
Fourth official: John Beaton

Scottish Premiership: Steven McLean to referee Old Firm derby

Fifa referee Steven McLean will take charge of his first ever Old Firm derby when the two fierce Glasgow rivals meet on Hogmanay at Ibrox.

  •  First Old Firm derby for Renfrewshire whistler McLean
  •  First derby not officiated by Collum or Thomson since 2012
  •  Second league meeting of the season
  •  Celtic boss Rodgers’ first trip to Ibrox
Steven McLean referee
On the rise: McLean is regarded as one of the up and coming officials in Scottish football and on the international stage (Picture from Sky Sports)

Steven McLean will referee his first ever Old Firm derby in the televised New Year’s Eve lunchtime showdown, the Scottish FA has confirmed. 

The highly-rated Fifa official has been given the difficult task of administering law and order in the Hogmanay meeting of bitter Glasgow rivals Rangers and Celtic (KO 12:15 BST, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted at Ibrox by Frank Connor and Douglas Ross – who were also the linesmen for September’s Celtic Park derby – while John Beaton will be keeping the peace in the dugout as the fourth official.

Both meetings this term – Celtic’s 5-1 league win and 1-0 League Cup semi-final victory at Hampden – were officiated by seasoned campaigners Willie Collum and Craig Thomson respectively.

Collum and Thomson – Scotland’s only Uefa Elite Category officials – are the only referees among the current crop in the country who have previously experienced what is one of the most thankless tasks in world football.

So there is a certain level of responsibility on the shoulders of McLean, who has seemingly beaten off competition from Beaton and Bobby Madden to be appointed, in order to show that other officials are capable of rising to this particular challenge.

Only in an interview at the start of the season did McLean confidently insist the country’s whistlers can cope with the return of the unique Old Firm environment and there is enough strength in depth in terms of the number of leading match officials.

The 35-year-old has shown he can handle high-profile occasions in the 2014 League Cup Final at Celtic Park and last season’s dramatic Scottish Cup Final involving Rangers, after which he and his fellow match officials were caught up in an unsavoury pitch invasion.

steven-mclean-in-action-inverness-v-ross-county-27th-oct-2015
Regular: McLean will take charge of his 11th Scottish Premiership game of the season at Ibrox (Picture from BBC Scotland)

McLean has been fourth official for two Old Firm derbies before but nothing can quite prepare him for his debut in the middle, with the Scottish Premiership’s top two desperate to sign off in 2016 with a winning feeling and bragging rights to boot.

The East Renfrewshire whistler endured an eventful afternoon in Rangers’ home win over Aberdeen at the start of the month, dishing out nine yellow cards and sending off both Gers defender Clint Hill and Dons skipper Ryan Jack in stoppage time.

Incidentally, McLean last encountered Celtic in a league match against the Dons at Pittodrie in October but many Hoops fans felt he allowed Aberdeen to apply too much rough treatment despite only brandishing five bookings in their side’s 1-0 victory.

They were the only occasions he has officiated either side in the league this term although McLean oversaw Rangers’ first competitive game of the campaign, in their 2-0 win at Motherwell in July in the Betfred Cup.

Celtic supporters will also remember McLean as the referee who oversaw their controversial Scottish Cup semi-final defeat against Inverness in 2015.

The officials – including an additional assistant referee positioned behind the goal – failed to spot a clear handball by Josh Meekings on the line before Hoops keeper Craig Gordon conceded a penalty and was sent off.

Celtic boss Ronny Deila was furious after the game with the first-half decision, which happened when his side led 1-0, and the club subsequently wrote to the Scottish FA but nothing came of their complaints.

McLean has since handled five matches involving the champions without any major controversy but incurred the wrath of then Hearts boss Robbie Neilson for failing to protect his players against Hamilton in November.

Steven McLean points for goalkick (Hearts v St Johnstone - 2nd August 2015)
Fresh: McLean hasn’t officiated a game since Hibernian’s 1-1 draw at Greenock Morton in the Championship on December 17 (Picture from BT Sport)

Overall, he has brandished 95 yellow cards, sent off four players (three in the Premiership and all for second bookable offences) and awarded four penalties in 21 games in all competitions so far this season.

McLean – a Fifa referee since 2010 who refereed his first SPL game in November 2008 – is the older brother of former Ross County and Dundee United defender Brian McLean.

A qualified fitness instructor and physiotherapist, he is now employed full-time by the SFA as a referee recruitment and education officer.

Elsewhere, Willie Collum will be in the middle for Hearts against Aberdeen on Friday night as third and fourth in the table lock horns at Tynecastle.

You can see a full list of this weekend’s SPFL match official appointments here.


‘Horrendous and horrible’ – Fans react:

As is normally the case before any derby encounter, there is a lot of division among fans on social media – but most supporters of both teams have been largely united in being unimpressed with the choice of referee.


State of play:

Mark Warburton’s Rangers will be desperate to make home advantage count as they seek to record a first league win over their arch nemesis since a memorable 3-2 win over nine-man Celtic at Ibrox in March 2012.

But Celtic will have other ideas in their bid to increase their lead at the summit to a massive 19 points and simultaneously maintain their unbeaten domestic record this season under Brendan Rodgers.

Both sides had mixed fortunes on Wednesday night, with Rangers failing to get the better of St Johnstone in a 1-1 draw at McDiarmid Park while goals from Erik Sviatchenko and Stuart Armstrong gave Celtic a routine 2-0 victory over Ross County at Parkhead.

Attention can now fully turn to the 404th meeting in one of world football’s oldest rivalries. Rangers know only a fifth league win in six games would be enough to keep alive their slim hopes of toppling Celtic, who have scored 11 goals in their last three away league games.

Scottish Premiership: Willie Collum to referee Inverness v Rangers

Willie Collum will be in the middle for Rangers’ televised Friday night trip to the Highlands as the Scottish Premiership resumes after the international break.

willie-collum-in-action-inverness-v-celtic-29th-november-2015
Visits: Collum, who will oversee his third domestic TV match of the season, oversaw Inverness’ home games against Celtic and Aberdeen last term (Picture from Sky Sports)

WILLIE Collum will be the man in the middle for Rangers’ Scottish Premiership match with Inverness Caley Thistle on Friday night.

The Euro 2016 whistler will make the decisions as the Gers kick start the top-flight weekend in the Highlands in front of the BT Sport cameras (KO 19:45 BST).

It will be his first game involving the Glasgow side since their 5-1 hammering by Celtic in last month’s Old Firm derby.

Although Collum was widely regarded to have had a good game, Mark Warburton was frustrated by what he felt was a clear second yellow card for Celtic’s Mikael Lustig for a crunching challenge on Barrie McKay.

One of his two red cards was shown to Philippe Senderos on his Gers debut for two bookable offences at Celtic Park, with the other in Napoli’s 2-1 victory at Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League group stages.

As was the case for the Old Firm, his assistants at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium will be Fifa-listed duo Frank Connor and Douglas Ross, with Steven Reid on fourth official duties.

It’s been a typically busy start to the campaign for the 37-year-old, who has handled 13 games in all competitions this season – brandishing 44 yellow cards and awarding four penalties.

Willie Collum referee (Motherwell v Celtic - 9th April 2016)
Keeping a low profile: Collum is no stranger to moments of controversy but has largely stayed out of the spotlight in recent months (Picture from Sky Sports)

He had a couple of tough decisions to make in St Mirren’s 2-1 win at Hibernian in the Irn Bru Cup fourth round last weekend – awarding a dubious free-kick for Saints’ equaliser before overruling an offside flag for David Clarkson’s late winner.

As the Religious Education teacher prepares for his sixth Premiership game of the campaign, he has awarded penalties in his previous two top-flight games – for Motherwell in their 4-2 derby win over Hamilton and, controversially, Aberdeen in their 4-0 victory at Kilmarnock.

Collum was slated by fans on social media after harshly penalising Jamie MacDonald for a perceived foul on James Maddison, which led to the Dons’ opening goal at Rugby Park.

He oversaw the biggest game in Inverness’ history in their 2015 Scottish Cup Final victory over Falkirk, despite sending off Caley Thistle defender Carl Tremarco for hauling down Blair Alston on 75 minutes.

The Lanarkshire official became more lenient last term, with his card count coming down as he enjoyed another busy campaign with 49 matches in total – including the prestigious Uefa Super Cup in Tbilisi.

Collum will make his first trip to Inverness since enduring a difficult night in February in the hosts’ 3-1 win over Aberdeen, who he upset in particular for awarding a controversial penalty against Ash Taylor.

Willie Collum blows for full-time (Uefa Super Cup - 11th August 2015)
In the middle: Collum is no stranger to high-profile games with a wealth of domestic and international experience (Picture from BT Sport)

It was one of several high-profile blunders which led to him being dropped from officiating Premiership fixtures for several weeks, but he responded positively at the Euros in France in the summer.

Father-of-three Collum, who has been a Fifa referee since 2006, went as Scotland’s only representative for his first major international tournament as a referee and left filled with pride in his team’s performances.

He officiated Turkey’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic and France’s 2-0 victory against Albania – brandishing eight yellow cards, no reds and awarding no penalties before being sent home after the group stages.

Collum will be hoping to avoid more negative headlines – the same fate suffered by Don Robertson when the other half of the Old Firm, Celtic, visited Inverness last month.

Caley Thistle skipper Richie Foran criticised Robertson’s failure to send off Erik Sviatchenko for what he thought was a last-man foul on Ross Draper in their 2-2 draw against the champions.

Fifth-placed Rangers, who trail leaders Celtic by seven points, could go joint second before their rivals play on Saturday but eighth-placed Inverness can move level on points with the Gers with a win.

You can see the rest of the SPFL match official appointments for the weekend here.

Scottish Premiership: Late drama as Aberdeen see off Rangers

Substitute James Maddison’s stunning free-kick gave Aberdeen a dramatic late win over rivals Rangers at Pittodrie in the first meeting of the sides since 2012.

  •  First meeting of the bitter rivals since January 2012
  •  Sub Maddison strikes stunning free-kick in 90th minute
  •  Andy Halliday penalty cancels out Jonny Hayes opener
  •  Only Aberdeen’s second win over Rangers in 14 meetings
  •  Rangers only scored seven league goals in as many games

tunnel
Return: Rangers had won on their previous three trips to Pittodrie but couldn’t do the same as the bitter rivals renewed acquaintances (Picture from Sky Sports)
JAMES Maddison’s stunning late free-kick gave Aberdeen a dramatic victory over Rangers in a pulsating first meeting between the rivals for almost five years.

After a first half lacking in goalmouth action, the returning Jonny Hayes struck 22 seconds into the second period with a composed finish for the Dons.

He turned from hero to villain for tugging back Rangers captain Lee Wallace in the box, allowing Andy Halliday to superbly convert a 79th minute penalty.

But, in the 90th minute, substitute Maddison stepped up to produce a sumptuous effort from 22 yards, which flew past Wes Foderingham into the top corner.

A third successive win in all competitions lifts Derek McInnes’s team up to second place – four points behind leaders Celtic, who came from behind to thrash Kilmarnock 6-1 on Saturday.

But Rangers boss Mark Warburton was furious with the award of the decisive free-kick – when James Tavernier was booked despite appearing to poke the ball away from Hayes – and angrily confronted referee John Beaton on the pitch after the full-time whistle.

It leaves the Gers seventh in the table with nine points from seven league games – in which they have conceded the first goal in five of them.

But despite a respectable display and his side boasting 63 per cent possession, Warburton must be concerned as their winless run in the Scottish Premiership stretches to four games.

Nevertheless, it was a fantastic spectacle for the neutral – featuring nine yellow cards – as a long-awaited first meeting since January 2012 saw one of Scottish football’s most bruising rivalries renewed.

As predicted, there was a frantic and fast tempo to the opening exchanges in front of a near full house at Pittodrie, with both sides – who reached the Betfred Cup semi-finals in midweek – taking time to settle into a rhythm.

Harry Forrester’s shot deflected behind by Anthony O’Connor before an Adam Rooney effort at the other end was blocked by Danny Wilson – illustrating both sets of defences were on top in the first period.

The first flashpoint took 10 minutes to arise when Joe Garner took offence to a foul on him by O’Connor, but referee Beaton handled the situation well, reminding them in no uncertain terms who was in charge.

A lack of control early on was emphasised by Garner’s needless sliding challenge on Hayes, which earned him a yellow card.

The ex-Preston striker made his presence felt throughout and he should have done better when heading Tavernier’s delightful cross over the crossbar on 17 minutes.

Rangers – backed by almost 2,000 fans for their first trip to the Granite City since 2011 – enjoyed 61 per cent of possession in a first half during which they were increasingly dominant.

Tavernier’s free-kick from 20 yards couldn’t a way past the Aberdeen wall before Joe Lewis was required to make an excellent save, scampering across his goalline after Garner’s wayward shot looped up off Shay Logan’s foot and was bound for the bottom corner.

Jason Holt – on his 50th Rangers appearance – rifled a half volley straight at Lewis after Garner missed his kick from Tavernier’s cutback before Barrie McKay curled off target on his right foot.

Aberdeen sat deep for long periods and struggled to carve out any kind of chances, with a Kenny McLean drive tipped over superbly by Foderingham the closest they came.

But after a first half lacking in goalscoring opportunities, the second period exploded into life as the Dons – who introduced Maddison for Peter Pawlett at the interval – drew first blood in no time at all.

A simple long ball forward by Lewis was flicked on by Rooney into the path of the onrushing Hayes, who easily escaped the Rangers defence to slot underneath Foderingham.

The Gers mustered a positive reply as Halliday’s free-kick flashed across the face of goal and drifted wide, before Wallace fired over from range but an effective end product continued to desert them.

Waghorn, fresh from a hat-trick against Queen of the South on Tuesday, then scooped over inexplicably from six yards after McKay’s cutback caught Garner by surprise.

Aberdeen largely offered a sporadic threat on the counter thereafter but remained a solid unit to thwart the Gers, who sent on Niko Kranjcar and Michael O’Halloran in place of Forrester and Waghorn.

Hayes got clear again down the left and his low effort was denied by Foderingham at the near post, after the Dons soaked up a sustained period of pressure.

But the Irish winger was at fault after bringing down the marauding Wallace, who was released in behind by substitute Kenny Miller.

It gave Rangers fan Halliday the chance to step up and send Lewis the wrong way from the spot, for his second goal in as many games.

From then on, Aberdeen pressed for a winner and, as the end of normal time approached, 19-year-old Maddison supplied it in dramatic fashion with the deadliest of free-kicks – surely a goal of the season contender.

Rangers desperately tried to respond but time was against them as they suffered their second league defeat of the season, while the Dons recorded a first win over the men from Govan since 2009.

James Maddison
Catching the eye: The on-loan Norwich midfielder scored for the second successive league game after netting in last Sunday’s 3-1 win at Dundee (Picture from Sky Sports)
Aberdeen 2 (Hayes 46′, Maddison 90′)
Rangers 1 (Halliday 79′ pen)


TEAMS:

Aberdeen XI
Four changes: Mark Reynolds, Adam Rooney, Jonny Hayes and Peter Pawlett came in for Ash Taylor, Jayden Stockley, James Maddison and Wes Burns (Picture from Sky Sports)
Substitutes:  Maddison (on for Pawlett 45′), Burns (on for McGinn 78′) and Taylor (on for Rooney 90+1).
Not used:  Alexander (GK), Storey, Storie, Stockley.
Booked:  Hayes, McLean, Shinnie, Reynolds, O’Connor

 

Rangers XI
Four changes: Lee Wallace, Wes Foderingham, Harry Forrester and Barrie McKay replaced Lee Hodson, Matt Gilks, Niko Kranjcar and Michael O’Halloran (Picture from Sky Sports)
Substitutes:  Kranjcar (on for Forrester 63′), O’Halloran (on for Waghorn 69′) and Miller (on for Garner 77′).
Not used:  Gilks (GK), Hodson, Senderos, Dodoo.
Booked:  Garner, Wilson, Kranjcar, Tavernier


MATCH OFFICIALS:

John Beaton referee
Mixed: Beaton started the game well and was on top of most things but was often too quick to issue cards and shouldn’t have awarded the decisive free-kick late on (Picture from Sky Sports)
Referee: John Beaton – 7/10
Assistant referees: Dougie Potter and Andrew McWilliam
Fourth official: Don Robertson

Attendance: 19,263


REACTION:

Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes:

Derek McInnes
Second time: The former Rangers midfielder’s only previous win over the Gers as a manager came in a 4-1 success with St Johnstone in 2010 (Picture from Sky Sports)
“It was a sensational winner. The players fought hard for that. First half, I was really annoyed with how we played. Getting the [Jonny Hayes] goal gives the players that belief and confidence to go and get the win. They [Rangers] get a lifeline with the penalty kick. Wee James [Maddison], what a free-kick. We should be shouting from the rooftops with how good that is. We deserved the three points.”

Mark Warburton
Crucial decision: Warburton felt the referee handled a difficult game well before awarding the free-kick which allowed Maddison to struck a memorable winner (Picture from Sky Sports)
Rangers boss Mark Warburton:

“We dominated the ball first half completely but went in at half-time frustrated it was 0-0. We gave away a schoolboy goal and for three or four minutes we looked a bit rocky. We lost our composure then got the ball down, then played. We got our rewards via the penalty and I thought there was (only) one team in it. I said to (assistant) Davie Weir we’d be frustrated to only get a point here when we have come and delivered a really good performance. I am never happy to drop a point, never mind three. I will be careful what I say about the free-kick. Everyone saw the ball move. The fourth official on the sidelines saw the ball move and made a comment. And yet a free-kick is given.”

Rangers striker Joe Garner told the club’s official website:

“We’re obviously very disappointed. I think the first half we played very well and over the last couple of games we have played well but we need to start picking up points now. You could say that we dominated or that we were the better side but that happens in football. We just have to try to take our chances and be positive.”

Scottish Premiership Preview: Aberdeen v Rangers

After the excitement of the Old Firm, another of Scottish football’s bitter feuds is back as the two rivals hoping to compete for Celtic’s crown meet at Pittodrie for the first time in five years.

aberdeen-v-rangers-21st-sept-2016
Best of enemies: Aberdeen and Rangers have revelled in some unsavoury confrontations in the past but this season’s encounters may prove to be more friendly affairs (Pictures BBC/Sky Sports)

ONE of Scottish football’s most intense feuds resumes this weekend after being put on hold for four years.  

Regarded by many as the next best thing to the Old Firm, Aberdeen against Rangers has often been a fiery fixture, which embodied the competitive edge to the former Scottish Premier League era.

With the Dons rediscovering their form in last week’s classy come-from-behind win at Dundee, Derek McInnes’s side will be primed to take on a beleaguered Gers side who have endured a difficult start to their long-awaited Premiership return.

A tough fortnight on the pitch, which saw the Glasgow side unravel at Celtic Park before failing to find a way past Ross County, has deepened off it with the implosion of the banned Joey Barton creating an unnecessary distraction.

The outspoken Englishman’s latest outburst seemed to have proved detrimental to both his career and Rangers’ season, but the experienced midfield man – now the subject of a betting investigation – has vowed to fight back.

The fiasco could not be more welcome or ideal, during a period in which the Gers have only won one of their last four games – and, even more worryingly, look disjointed and defensively frail.

But their regular League Cup keeper Matt Gilks, a former team-mate of Barton’s at Burnley, took to the media to insist it hasn’t unsettled the squad or affected their match preparations.

After breezing past Queen of the South with their best display of the season to set up an Old Firm clash in the Betfred Cup semis, under-fire boss Mark Warburton will hope a sense of normality has been restored ahead of Sunday’s testing trip to Pittodrie – an experience former Gers captain Barry Ferguson admitted he didn’t enjoy during his playing career.

Although their last meeting produced a tepid 1-1 draw at Ibrox in January 2012, there is a certain nastiness to this particular rivalry, which is steeped in tradition as well as controversy.

This was emphasised in a typically bruising encounter in October 2011, the last time the men from Govan made the trip to the north-east, when Kyle Lafferty’s clinical finish and a Nikica Jelavic penalty helped the Gers to a 2-1 victory, putting them in firm control in the title race.

rangers-fans-leave-celtic-park-early-old-firm-derby-10th-sept-2016
On the road: Rangers fans have seen their side win only one of their three away league games so far this season – a 2-1 victory at Dundee last month (Picture from Sky Sports)

But neither have fully established themselves as pacesetters having opened the campaign in stuttering fashion, punctuated by glimpses of brilliance and moments of madness in equal measure.

Heading into the seventh round of matches, both sides are adjacent in the table with almost identical records – fourth and fifth respectively, with two wins, three draws and a defeat from six league games.

Aberdeen had a more difficult route than Rangers into the League Cup’s last four, as recently as Thursday night, with Adam Rooney’s 90th minute header the difference against a stubborn St Johnstone.

pittodrie-pre-match-aberdeen-v-hearts-12th-dec-2015
Mixed: Although Aberdeen are unbeaten at home in seven games in all competitions this term, the Dons have won only one of their three league games at Pittodrie so far (Picture from Sky Sports)

It extended the Dons’ steady but unspectacular opening to the campaign but – like the Gers – their only domestic defeat thus far has come at Celtic Park, with Aberdeen on the end of a similar resounding loss at the end of August.

The Scottish Premiership’s marquee clash of the weekend is expected to be played in front of a sell-out Pittodrie crowd as well as the Sky cameras for what should be a Sunday lunchtime to savour (KO 13:00 BST).

And both the Dons and the Gers will be desperately hoping for the win which would provide a psychological boost to their faltering bids in challenging champions Celtic.

While, from the neutral point of view, it has all the ingredients of a classic.


POSSIBLE LINE-UPS:

Aberdeen

aberdeen-xi

Rangers

rangers-xi


TEAM NEWS:

lee-wallace-before-ko-v-alloa-23rd-april-2016
Ready to return: The 29-year-old, Rangers’ longest serving player having joined in 2011, is expected to slot back in after missing the midweek League Cup tie (Picture from Sky Sports)

Aberdeen skipper Ryan Jack will be sidelined once again as he continues to recuperate from knee surgery.

Winger Jonny Hayes missed Thursday’s League Cup tie against St Johnstone after sustaining a hamstring injury in the warm-up but the Irishman expects to be fit to face the Gers.

Rangers captain Lee Wallace should return at left-back after being rested for Tuesday’s League Cup tie against Queen of the South.

Andy Halliday, who described taking over the armband in midweek as “one of the proudest moments of my career”, is set to continue in midfield with Barton – the man he had a training ground row with last week – suspended by the club for three weeks.

Kenny Miller will be included in the squad, despite being arrested in connection with an alleged disturbance at a restaurant, but Jordan Rossiter remains unavailable with a calf strain.

Matt Gilks was in goal against the Doonhamers in midweek but is set to return to the bench, with Wes Foderingham likely to come back in.


MATCH OFFICIALS:

John Beaton referee (Hibernian v Rangers - 1st November 2015)
Top-flight: Former press officer and Euro 2016 additional assistant referee Beaton will take charge of his fourth Premiership game of the season (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee: John Beaton
Assistants referees: Dougie Potter and Andrew McWilliam
Fourth official: Don Robertson

Fifa official Beaton, 34, has already had some eventful games and controversial moments so far this season – giving 11 yellow cards and a penalty for a dive, three penalties in 45 minutes, booking two players for diving in the same game and sending a manager to the stands for sarcastically applauding a decision.

But the Lanarkshire whistler will be hoping for a quieter afternoon in arguably his biggest match of the campaign so far – and his first between Aberdeen and Rangers.

You can read more about Beaton’s appointment here.


MEMORABLE MEETING:

Aberdeen 2 (Vernon 10′, Maguire 30′, 87′ sent off)
Rangers 3 (Miller 34′ pen, 52′, Jelavic 67′)
September 2010, SPL, Pittodrie

It was another early-season showdown at Pittodrie which produced one of the most thrilling games between these bitter rivals in recent times.

Reigning champions Rangers looked on course to suffer their first defeat of the season when Scott Vernon and Chris Maguire fired the Dons into a 2-0 lead inside half-an-hour.

But Kenny Miller, currently in his third spell with the Ibrox club, continued his excellent form at the start of the campaign by first converting a controversially awarded penalty before blasting home his second to level the scores.

Nikica Jelavic notched the winner midway through the second half and Aberdeen’s Maguire saw red late on as the Gers moved above Celtic at the top of the SPL on goal difference, with both sides winning their first six league games.

You can read more about the match here.


HEAD TO HEAD:

Despite the lack of meetings in recent years, Rangers have found life difficult in the Granite City over the last decade.

However, the Gers have won on their last three visits to Pittodrie, but have had to overcome obstacles along the way and come from behind in games.

Aberdeen haven’t beaten Rangers since a 1-0 success at home in November 2009 – surviving the dismissal of captain Mark Kerr to earn three deserved points in the SPL through Lee Miller’s early goal.

But in the subsequent seven meetings, it’s been tight every time but the Gers have won on six occasions – albeit only by a one or two-goal margin.

Indeed, other than SPL games, the sides haven’t crossed paths in a cup competition since September 2004 when Rangers won 2-0 away from home in the League Cup.


BETTING ODDS:

There have been so many keenly fought encounters between the sides in times gone by – and the bookmakers expect this one to be no different.

It’s a difficult one to call and the odds make it no easier to make up your mind if you fancy a flutter.

Aberdeen are favoured to win at 13/8 by SkyBet, sportingbet, Coral and betfair, while betway, BetBright, Marathon Bet and BoyleSports prefer Rangers to take three points at 8/5.

Perhaps the safest option is backing a draw – which is currently 12/5 with SkyBet, BoyleSports, BetVictor, Coral, Marathon Bet and 188Bet.

You can view a full list of winning odds here.


WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY:

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New battle: As was the case in the Old Firm derby, the two managers will come face-to-face in the dugout for the first time (Pictures BT/Sky Sports)

Rangers boss Mark Warburton has been criticised by many in recent weeks amid the latest turmoil to filter through Ibrox and the club’s inability to hit the ground running on their top-flight return.

Some have even called for his removal, with pundit Chris Sutton claiming Warburton is “arrogant” and has two games to save his job.

But the defiant former Brentford boss has shook off the haters and, after a shambolic display against fellow fierce rivals Celtic earlier this month, insists his players are ready for the challenge they face against the Dons.

He said: “They want to play in these type of games. It will be a 20,000 sell-out and an intimidating atmosphere and they will enjoy that. It has been five years since we have been up there. The fans are looking forward to it and so are the players.

“We are looking forward to the trip north. After what happened at Parkhead hard work is the only way of getting better.”

Opposite number Derek McInnes has questioned why his side have been given two days less to prepare for the game but insists the Dons will be at full strength and ready for Rangers.

Speaking after his team booked a League Cup semi spot against Morton, McInnes said: “We need a big effort from everyone for Sunday. It’s ridiculous that Rangers have 48 hours of extra recovery before a league game when there doesn’t need to be.

“Why our game was moved to the Thursday, I don’t get. But it is what it is – and we’ll be ready for them come Sunday.

“It will be a full house here, everyone wants to be involved in it. I think it’s a significant fixture on the calendar, Aberdeen against Rangers.

“It probably gets everyone fired up. They’re a good side, they had an impressive performance the other night.

“Rangers have got too much quality, having invested heavily in a squad that already looked good in the Championship, to consider them anything but a tough nut to crack. But we’re in good form. And tonight’s result helps.

“I don’t know about us being favourites. I can’t go and spend £2 million or £3 million and pay the wages they do. But we always feel we can win, especially at Pittodrie. Sunday is no different.”


More to get you in the mood…

Five-star Celtic thrash 10-man Rangers in season’s first Old Firm derby

Moussa Dembele’s hat-trick helped Celtic thump five past Rangers in the first Old Firm derby in the Scottish Premiership for five seasons to maintain their 100% start to the league campaign.

  •  Dembele nets perfect hat-trick: header, left foot & right foot
  •  First league Old Firm for four and a half years
  •  Rangers suffer first Scottish Premiership defeat of season
  •  Rodgers gets better of Warburton as bosses clash in dugout for first time
dembele-goal-2-0
Star of the show: The Frenchman took his tally of Celtic goals to seven in all competitions already this season with a stunning hat-trick showing (Picture from Sky Sports)

MOUSSA Dembele scored a sensational hat-trick as a dominant Celtic swatted 10-man Rangers aside in the Scottish Premiership’s first Old Firm derby for five seasons.

The former Fulham striker, who only started because Leigh Griffiths was ruled out through injury, notched a double in the space of nine first-half minutes with a header and fine finish.

Joe Garner – on his first start for Rangers – gave the visitors hope by nodding home Kenny Miller’s header from close range on the stroke of half-time.

But Dembele set up Scott Sinclair, who netted for the fourth successive league game, before completing his historic treble to seal the deal.

And substitute Stuart Armstrong added gloss in stoppage time for the Hoops, who have now recorded four wins from four at the start of a league season for the first time since 2010.

The 20-year-old’s first career hat-trick was the first in an Old Firm league game since Stevie Chalmers in 1966, as the eagerly-awaited first league meeting of Glasgow’s fierce rivals since April 2012 delivered in every department and gave the Manchester derby a run for its money.

In truth, it was a comfortable afternoon for the champions, who laid down an early marker in their quest for a sixth successive title, as Brendan Rodgers enjoyed a winning Old Firm debut and his side maintained their 100 per cent start to the campaign in some style.

Brendan Rodgers with Chris Davies and John Kennedy
Sitting pretty: Rodgers, centre, watched on as Celtic moved four points clear of Rangers at the top of the table with a game in hand (Picture from Sky Sports)

In contrast, it was a rotten first trip to Celtic Park for opposite number Mark Warburton as the Gers lost Rob Kiernan to injury and debutant Philippe Senderos to two daft bookable offences – before assistant manager Davie Weir was ordered to the dressing room.

Rangers began brightly but quickly faded away to become second best by some distance as their unbeaten, yet stuttering, return to Scotland’s top-flight came to a painful end at the home of their city neighbours.

For Celtic, it was the perfect warm-up for the start of their Champions League group stage campaign against Barcelona on Tuesday, with the only worry being Scott Brown’s withdrawal with a minor injury on 74 minutes.

Even though it failed to reach breaking point, the Hoops skipper – in his 23rd Old Firm appearance – enjoyed the hugely-anticipated duel with Joey Barton. And the recently retired Scotland international had the last laugh with another verbal jibe, claiming it was “men against boys”.

Although that was the case by the end, it was much tighter in the typically frantic opening exchanges, when lots of inflatables made their way on to the pitch and added to the carnival atmosphere inside a packed Parkhead.

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Watching brief: Celtic’s leading scorer, who missed Scotland duty after coming off against Aberdeen, sat out again with a hamstring injury (Picture from Sky Sports)

Tom Rogic, who scored in April’s Scottish Cup semi-final before missing the decisive spotkick, had a couple of early sighters off target as he took up some intelligent positions in behind Rangers’ three-man midfield.

After an even opening, Celtic came on strong and started the unexpected rout on 33 minutes when Dembele rose above Kiernan to meet Sinclair’s corner before leaving Senderos for dead to confidently finish past Wes Foderingham and put the hosts firmly in control.

Rangers appeared to have dragged themselves back in contention before the interval as Garner bundled in Miller’s header from a James Tavernier cross – the club’s first league goal at Celtic Park in four visits.

After Andy Halliday replaced an ineffective Kranjcar for the start of the second half, the Gers briefly threatened to draw level when Barrie McKay curled a shot wide of the far post.

But the champions soon settled into their rhythm once more as Dembele’s defence-splitting pass released Sinclair, who clipped in off the post to continue his impressive start since arriving from Aston Villa.

As Celtic’s Patrick Roberts and Rangers forward Martyn Waghorn made their respective comebacks from hamstring injuries off the bench, Gers keeper Foderingham had to deny Armstrong and Dembele from distance.

Joey Barton
Me and my big mouth: Barton was made to eat his words as he failed to turn up on the big stage – and Celtic counterpart Brown delivered a statistical masterclass (Picture from Sky Sports)

Rangers began to unravel and a debut to forget for Senderos was compounded when the experienced former Arsenal defender, booked for a foul on Sinclair earlier, was dismissed by Willie Collum for a deliberate and daft handball.

It got worse when Warburton’s right-hand man Weir also received his marching orders for a foul-mouthed rant at fourth official Kevin Clancy.

Celtic showed no signs of letting up and ruthlessly cashed in on the numerical advantage in the closing stages, as Dembele took down a Mikael Lustig cross and fired home his third. He could be forgiven for the overzealous celebrations which earned him a booking.

Armstrong, in his first taste of the famous rivalry, had the final say with a goal his excellent cameo merited – tucking into the bottom corner from Kieran Tierney’s cutback in added time.

The headlines, though, belonged to one man and, with Griffiths confirmed to be absent for the trip to the Nou Camp, Rodgers will be hoping the irrepressible Dembele can continue in the same vein.

As Celtic reflected on setting the standard in the first of four expected Old Firm showdowns this term, Rangers were left to lick their wounds and re-evaluate their options whilst scurrying out of the back door in the east end of Glasgow unnoticed.

But the real winner is Scottish football: the Old Firm is well and truly back, and here to stay!


TEAMS:

celtic-xi
Four derby debutants: Summer signings Dorus de Vries, Kolo Toure, Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele tasted the Old Firm for the first time (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Armstrong (on for Rogic 54′), Roberts (on for Forrest 64′) and McGregor (on for Brown 74′)

Not used:  Gordon (GK), Gamboa, Izaguirre, Ciftci.

Booked:  Bitton (8′), Toure (49′), Roberts (80′), Dembele (84′)

Goals:  Dembele (33′, 42′, 83′), Sinclair (61′), Armstrong (90+2′)

 

rangers-xi
Old Firm initiations for five: Philippe Senderos, Josh Windass, Joey Barton, Niko Kranjcar and Joe Garner all lined up against Celtic for the first time (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Halliday (on for Kranjcar 45′), Waghorn (on for Miller 63′) and Forrester (on for Kiernan 72′)

Not used:  Gilks (GK), Hodson, Hill, O’Halloran.

Booked:  Kranjcar (29′), Senderos (63′), Kiernan (68′)

Sent-off:  Senderos (75′)

Goals:  Garner (44′)


MATCH OFFICIALS:

willie-collum-referee
Under the radar: Scotland’s Euro 2016 referee gave seven yellows and a red but managed his third Old Firm derby very well and came through unscathed (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee: Willie Collum (Scotland) – 8/10
Assistant referees: Douglas Ross and Frank Connor (Scotland)
Fourth Official: Kevin Clancy (Scotland)

Attendance: 60,000


REACTION:

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers: “It was a great day for the club and the team. If you think of all the travelling this team has put in over the last couple of weeks, with a lot of players away, to get back in and produce that level of performance with that energy in the team, I thought it was an outstanding team performance.”

Rangers manager Mark Warburton: “It was hugely disappointing. We were just talking in there that the fans were magnificent for us. I thought we were good in the second half. McKay had a good chance and we were in a good shape but we made some poor decisions and gave away cheap goals. As a group in there, we know that.”