SPL

Celtic 1-1 Rangers: Morelos keeps Gerrard's champions unbeaten

By Sports Desk March 21, 2021

Alfredo Morelos finally broke his Old Firm duck, netting to give freshly crowned Scottish Premiership champions Rangers a 1-1 draw at Celtic.

Steven Gerrard's side dropped points for only the fifth time this season after Mohamed Elyounoussi put Celtic ahead, but Rangers remain undefeated in their top-flight campaign.

The usual hostilities were put aside during a show of pre-match unity from both teams, in response to Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara being allegedly subjected to racist abuse during their midweek Europa League defeat to Slavia Prague.

However, Morelos customarily ensured some of the old devilment remained when he scored in the league derby at the 13th time of asking – holding up 10 fingers in celebration to mock Celtic failing to a win a record-breaking 10th consecutive title this season.

Celtic, playing under caretaker manager John Kennedy, deserved their 23rd-minute breakthrough.

Callum McGregor slid a pass in behind Rangers right-back Leon Balogun and Odsonne Edouard's superb left-footed cross was matched by Elyounoussi's full-length diving header.

Edouard tormented Balogun and the rest of the Rangers defence at times, although referee Willie Collum adjudged him to have dived under a sprawling challenge from Borna Barisic and dished out a yellow card before the half hour.

Rangers were level in the 38th minute – Balogun atoning for his part in the opener by rising highest to meet Barisic's corner and leaving Morelos with the formality of nodding home unmarked at the far post.

That sparked a flurry of activity at both ends before half-time as Allan McGregor recovered to retrieve an Edouard effort that squirmed through his legs, before opposite number Scott Bain in the Celtic goal kept out a sublime Ryan Kent volley.

The champions continued to look vulnerable to set-pieces, with Elyounoussi and Stephen Welsh going close either side of the interval.

McGregor was equal to an Edouard long-ranger and then thwarted David Turnbull in the 72nd minute after the midfielder was played in by Ryan Christie.

Unsurprisingly, Edouard reacted quicker than any Rangers player to the resulting corner, but Gerrard's men kept their unbeaten league record intact.

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    Spain sent out a statement in their opening game at Euro 2024 by thrashing Croatia 3-0 in Berlin, with Lamine Yamal assisting as he became the competition's youngest-ever player to feature.

    La Roja claimed a 5-3 extra-time victory when these sides met in the last 16 at Euro 2020, but they enjoyed a far more serene outing on Saturday.

    Fabian Ruiz released Alvaro Morata to put them ahead after a quiet start, then some clever footwork led to the midfielder's deflected strike beating Dominik Livakovic three minutes later.

    Luis de la Fuente made Yamal the Euros' youngest-ever player at the age of 16 years and 338 days, and he rewarded his coach by assisting Dani Carvajal's third on the stroke of half-time.

    Croatia looked a shadow of the team that took bronze at the 2022 World Cup and saw a potential consolation chalked off late on, Ivan Perisic being punished for encroachment as he teed up Bruno Petkovic on the rebound from the forward's saved penalty.

    The opening exchanges were low on excitement as Spain struggled to combine their patient approach play with penetration, but Fabian provided the telling pass after 29 minutes.

    The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder split the Croatia centre-backs with an excellent throughball, allowing Morata to race clear and finish left-footed.

    Fabian doubled Spain's advantage shortly afterwards. Receiving the ball from Pedri on the edge of the box, he turned Luka Modric before seeing his low drive take a slight deflection on its way into the bottom-right corner.

    Croatia sought a response as Unai Simon denied Marcelo Brozovic and Josko Gvardiol volleyed wide, but their troubles deepened in first-half stoppage time, Carvajal pouncing to prod Yamal's inviting cross home.

    Yamal could have had a goal to go with his assist seven minutes after the break, but Livakovic made a stunning save to keep his left-footed strike out.

    Marc Cucurella made a brave last-ditch block to keep out Josip Stanisic's shot, and Croatia were denied a consolation in bizarre circumstances with 10 minutes remaining.

    Simon's mistake led to Rodri pushing Petkovic over in front of a gaping goal, and though the Croatia substitute saw his spot-kick saved, he tapped home Perisic's left-sided cross on the rebound.

    However, a VAR review showed Perisic was encroaching, so Petkovic's late finish was disallowed to cap a miserable start for Croatia.

    Much-maligned Morata climbs the charts

    Euro 2020 was a tournament to forget for Morata, who scored three goals but missed more big chances (six) than any other player before fluffing his lines from the spot as Spain were beaten on penalties by Italy in the last four.

    However, Morata came into this tournament on the back of his joint-most prolific campaign in Europe's top five leagues, netting 15 times for Atletico Madrid in LaLiga, and he carried that form into Saturday's Group B opener.

    He now has seven goals at the Euros overall (three in 2016, three in 2020, one in 2024), with only Cristiano Ronaldo (14) and Michel Platini (nine) bettering that tally.

    Morata is also just the second Spanish player to reach double figures for goals at major tournaments, with 10. David Villa – their leading goalscorer at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup – netted 13.

    Youth trumps experience

    As Spain made Yamal the youngest player in Euros history, Croatia skipper Modric – aged 38 years and 280 days – became the oldest outfielder to appear at the tournament since Germany's Lothar Matthaus against Portugal in 2000 (39 years, 91 days).

    Far from replicating Toni Kroos' metronomic performance in Germany's 5-1 rout of Scotland on Friday, Modric struggled to get a foothold against Spain's cultured midfield trio and was found wanting as Fabian turned him to score La Roja's second.

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    While Yamal became the youngest player to assist in the history of the Euros, Carvajal became the oldest player to score for Spain at the competition, aged 32 years and 156 days.

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    Brighton have announced that Fabian Hurzeler has become their new head coach, a club statement confirmed on Saturday. 

    Hurzeler, 31, signed a three-year deal and arrives at the Amex having led St Pauli to the Bundesliga 2 title last season by winning 20 of their 34 matches.

    “From the start of the process to appoint our new head coach, Fabian was always a standout candidate and one who had caught our attention with his exceptional work at St Pauli over the past eighteen months," Chairman Tony Bloom said. 

    “He has a style of play that aligns with how we want a Brighton & Hove Albion team to play, and I’m confident it is one our supporters will appreciate and enjoy.

    “Fabian also has an excellent coaching pedigree and has worked with the German federation at various age group levels. We are really excited to start working with Fabian to prepare for the upcoming season.”

    Brighton's rise under the stewardship of De Zerbi has been admired by many, with the Italian helping the club qualify for Europe for the first time in their history at the end of the 2022-23 campaign. 

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    "The club has made incredible progress over the last few seasons and the aim is to continue building on that success," Huerzeler said.

    "I am relishing the opportunity to coach in the Premier League, and I can't wait to meet the players, staff and, of course, the fans."

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    The former Chelsea man has been hampered by hamstring issues before requiring surgery, while his move to Saudi Pro League side Al-Ittihad saw Kante dropped by Didier Deschamps.

    Diminutive midfielder Kante had not appeared in international football over the last two years but made his return to Les Bleus' squad for the tournament in Germany.

    Calling upon years of trophy-winning experience in the middle, Kante's France team-mates have been impressed with the 33-year-old's efforts in warm-up friendlies against Luxembourg and Canada.

    "I had the impression that there were three of him," French forward Marcus Thurman joked at a press conference on Saturday.

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    Olivier Giroud echoed a similar sentiment when praising the two-time Premier League champion on Friday.

    "He has not changed," veteran Giroud said. "He is the same player I have known for years in the national team and at Chelsea. He is everywhere. It's great to have him with us."

    The 55-cap international appears set to start when France open their Group D campaign against Austria in Dusseldorf, if Deschamps' high praise last week is anything to go by.

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    "Even though he hasn't been here for a while, he's not out of place."

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