Rangers 2 Celtic 0
Kris Boyd ended his long wait for a goal against Celtic when he helped fire Rangers to a lucrative victory in the final Old Firm derby of the season.
The otherwise prolific striker had failed to bag a goal against Celtic in 15 previous attempts with both Kilmarnock and Rangers.
But his patience paid off when his strike – along with a superb Charlie Adam free-kick – secured a win over their most fierce rivals, as well as second place in the Bank of Scotland Premier League.
Rangers can now end what has been another disappointing season safe in the knowledge they at least have a crack at the Champions League – which could bring millions of pounds into the Ibrox coffers – to look forward to next term.
With Celtic having wrapped up the SPL title a fortnight ago, some observers claimed today’s match was nothing more than a meaningless end of season game. Rangers did not believe a word of it.
For 90 minutes, Ibrox pulsated under the weight of 50,000 fans who demanded nothing less than victory – and the all-important city bragging rights.
Rangers boss Walter Smith named an unchanged side following the 3-3 draw with Hibernian last week.
On the bench were three youngsters – goalkeeper Scott Gallacher, Paul Emslie and Andrew Shinnie – from the under-19 side who succeeded where the senior team had failed, by winning the title and the Youth Cup, but veteran striker Dado Prso missed out on one last Old Firm outing due to tonsilitis.
Celtic made changes to the side beaten 3-1 by Hearts last week. In came Thomas Gravesen and Gary Caldwell; out went Jiri Jarosik and Jean-Joel Perrier-Doumbe.
Rangers found themselves under pressure in the opening minutes when Celtic were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out for a David Weir foul on Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.
Dead-ball specialist Shunsuke Nakamura stepped up but Alan Hutton did well to block the effort and nod safely into the hands of goalkeeper Allan McGregor.
At the other end, Artur Boruc was called into action to smother a shot from Nacho Novo, who had looked busy from the outset.
Rangers looked more dangerous going forward and Kevin Thomson was unfortunate to see a shot cannon off the body of Caldwell.
Adam then wasted a decent opportunity when he mis-kicked from the edge of the box and close marking from Steven Pressley meant Boyd failed to help the ball over the line.
However, it was Boyd who broke the deadlock with 33 minutes gone, finally claiming his first ever goal against Celtic, and joy and relief were etched all over his face.
Novo was the provider with a cheeky chip and, even though there was a suspicion of offside, the flag stayed down and Boyd struck a left-footed volley under the body of Boruc and into the back of the net.
Caldwell then received the first yellow card five minutes before the break for a late challenge on Thomson.
The first half ended with the sight of Celtic skipper Neil Lennon taunting the home fans by lifting an imaginary cup as he walked towards the tunnel.
Hoops boss Gordon Strachan then made a more constructive attempt to silence the gleeful Ibrox faithful when he swapped Gravesen for Kenny Miller at the break.
Nakamura should have had the ball in the back of the net for Celtic shortly after the restart but he rifled off the body of McGregor, before Ugo Ehiogu cleared the danger off the line.
Instead, Rangers added to their lead after 55 minutes. Adam had proved useful with free-kicks on several occasions and it was no surprise to see him step up when Barry Ferguson was felled by Paul Hartley.
What was surprising was his decision to roll the ball low along the ground and into the back of the net, fooling the Celtic wall, who jumped in anticipatation of his usual flighted, curling effort.
Rangers then made their first change, Boyd making way for Filip Sebo who was unlucky not to score with his first touch, Boruc blocking.
Both teams made changes for the last ten minutes; Chris Burke replaced Thomson and Aiden McGeady made way for Derek Riordan.
Sebo could have added a third goal when he burst into the box, only to see his powerful shot flash just off target.
Only Caldwell and Stephen McManus had been cautioned but the crime count tripled in the final minutes when Alan Hutton foolishly aimed at kick at Vennegoor of Hesselink.
The incident sparked a melee and Hutton, Lee Naylor and Lennon were all booked, before Miller’s name was also added to referee Craig Thomson’s book for a foul on Hutton, ensuring a typical end to a fiery fixture.