Scott McDonald’s goal gave Celtic a 1-0 victory at Rangers on Saturday to open up a seven-point lead over their Glasgow rival.
Celtic, bidding for a fourth straight Scottish Premier League title, settled the “Old Firm” derby in style with their first meaningful shot in the 58th minute.
Georgios Samaras beat David Weir to head on a deep ball into McDonald’s path. The Australia striker chested the ball down, swiveled past Kirk Broadfoot and volleyed into the top corner to avenge a 4-2 loss at Celtic Park earlier in August.
“We are seven points ahead, but there is still a long way to go,” McDonald said. “Losing at home hurt us and we wanted to come here and get our revenge.”
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan had warned his side against complacency.
“We were seven points clear a couple of weeks ago and we lost the game at Easter Road [against Hibernian] and the panic bells started going everywhere,” Strachan said. “We know that seven points is OK but it’s only OK if you’ve got two games to go.”
Celtic now have 50 points from 20 games and Rangers 43.
“We must face up to that fact and there is no margin for error now,” Rangers manager Walter Smith said. “Celtic have that [advantage] but we don’t. We have to make sure we can go on and keep winning in the months ahead.”
Rangers had the ball in the net in the 11th, only for referee Craig Thomson to rule it out. Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc fumbled a clearance from Steven Davis’ corner into his own net as he was being knocked over by Broadfoot.
Rangers dominated possession but an inability to finish in front of goal allowed Celtic to emerge from Ibrox with a win for the first time since February 2006.
“We were the better side, but after we went behind we lost a bit of composure as we started pouring forward in search of an equalizer,” Smith said. “After having a lot of the territorial pressure, it was extremely disappointing not to get a good result with it.”
Dundee United maintained their hold on third place by beating Falkirk 1-0, while their nearest challengers, Hearts, lost 1-0 at Aberdeen and had two players sent off.
Marius Zaliukas was dismissed in the second half for elbowing Aberdeen’s Andrew Considine.
More strife came after the match at Pittodrie when Hearts defender Lee Wallace was sent off following a skirmish in the tunnel, while Aberdeen striker Chris Maguire and Hearts right back Robbie Neilson received yellow cards.
In the only movement in the standings on Saturday, Motherwell edged Inverness 3-2 to climb three points clear of bottom place, where Hamilton remain after losing 1-0 to St. Mirren.
Kilmarnock threw away a two-goal lead established by the 12th minute, but came back to beat Hibernian 4-2. Hibernian wiped out the initial lead by halftime with two penalties.