This was the warm-up act for the Old Firm ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final and the Hoops will hope that it is a good omen for Brendan Rodgers’ side as the Hampden countdown continues.
The Under-17 clash was the first of four meetings between the clubs in the coming days, with the Scottish FA Youth Cup final to come next Wednesday before the final fixture of the campaign at Ibrox a week on Saturday.
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It was an opportunity for the potential heroes of tomorrow to showcase their talents and get their own feel for the Old Firm occasion. It was also a chance for revenge for Rangers after three successive defeats, including a 4-0 loss at Ibrox last year, in recent seasons.
Light Blues boss Billy Kirkwood handed a start to midfielder Billy Gilmour at Firhill as many Gers fans were given their first chance to see the 15-year-old in action.
Gilmour has emerged as one of the brightest talents in the Auchenhowie ranks and has a decision to make in the summer over whether to continue his career in Glasgow or to join Chelsea in a six-figure deal.
The playmaker would have been keen to impress but his impact was limited in the opening stages as Celtic dominated from the off.
Gers keeper Brian Kinnear made a couple of early stops but he couldn’t keep the Hoops at bay in the 17th minute as Ewen Henderson finished well from close range after neat work from Jack Aitchison.
It was a goal that Celtic more than deserved and there was little change in the flow of the game as Michael O’Halloran’s side looked to extend their advantage. Despite a spell of pressure, there was no second goal.
Rangers got their first shot away as Zak Rudden’s low drive was saved, while Jordan Houston scooped an effort over the bar after Dapo Mebude burst down the right flank.
Kirkwood’s side finished the first half strongly and they got the leveller just before the break. Gilmour had become increasingly involved in proceedings and he showed good composure before Matthew Shiels rifled the ball into the far corner.
It was the spark that Rangers needed and they started the second half brightly, keeper Ryan Mullen saving well after Shiels’ shot was deflected. He was forced into action again to stop a fierce long-range effort from Rudden.
The third goal of the night soon arrived and it was Celtic that got it. Aitchison netted in the final twelve months ago before going on to mark his first team bow with a goal and the forward capped a fine performance here with a low strike from the edge of the area.
With just minutes remaining, Celtic’s Kerr McInroy was sent off after picking up a second booking as Rangers were given a glimmer of hope.
There was no late leveller for the Light Blues, though, as Celtic held out to make it four-in-a-row in the Glasgow Cup.