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How Celtic beat Rangers in Scottish Premiership title race | Football News

Celtic are champions for the third season running – but how did Brendan Rodgers’ side edge Rangers to the crown?

The Hoops now have an unsurmountable six-point lead over their rivals after thrashing Kilmarnock 5-0 at Rugby Park.

Celtic secured their 54th domestic title in the penultimate round – despite Philippe Clement’s side holding the summit only one month ago.

Highlights as Celtic sealed the title against Kilmarnock

You can hit play on the interactive graphic below to see how only three points divided the sides going into the post-split fixtures.

The reason? Rangers hit a slump in mid-April and after matchday 33 averaged just one point per game over their previous five outings. Clement’s side have won just three top-flight games since the start of last month.

That downward trend can be traced back to the 2-1 defeat to Motherwell in early March, which ended a run of nine consecutive league wins.

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Highlights from the Scottish Premiership clash between Celtic and Rangers

Conversely, Celtic were ticking at 2.6 points per game over that same period and have now won their past five league games.

Tracking the gap by matchday, the graphic below reveals how the title tussle grew tighter as the campaign progressed, as Rangers gradually closed the gap – before their season-closing dip.

The stats suggest Celtic are worthy champions – leading the way across a raft of key metrics, including goals scored, shots on target, assists, possession and passes completed – while also netting a league-topping 15 headed goals.

Kyogo has scored five headers in the Scottish Premiership this season.

Meanwhile, Rangers excelled defensively, recording more clean sheets – but, ultimately, couldn’t outgun their rivals at the top end of the pitch.

Rodgers almost exclusively deployed a 4-3-3 system during the campaign, with a league-topping 21 different players getting on the scoresheet.

Despite this, his side were relatively consistent with the exception, perhaps, of rotating the left-wing berth, with both Luis Palma and Hyun-Jun Yang getting runouts in the side.

Typical XI

The graphic below reveals balanced average positions across the campaign, with Callum McGregor protecting the centre-backs and right winger Daizen Maeda typically playing slightly higher than his left-flank counterpart.

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Matt O’Riley has attracted suitors from around the world after another impressive campaign and ranks as Celtic’s top performer this season in the Sky Sports Power Rankings, which ranks players’ form based on 35 matchday statistics.

Centre-back Liam Scales and left-back Greg Taylor also rank among the elite – boosted by being among a clutch of four Celtic players to clock more than 2,800 league minutes.

O’Riley tops the division for assists (13), overall goal involvements (30), touches in the opposition box (268) and regaining possession in the final third (33), in addition to netting 17 goals – only Lawrence Shankland has scored more.

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Despite primarily operating from the right-of-centre region in midfield, the shot and chances created maps below reveal the Denmark international’s threat from all areas – while also creating countless chances for team-mates from long passes.

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Indeed, O’Riley and Kyogo Furuhashi were the primary attacking forces behind Celtic’s title charge, netting 30 goals between them to date.

No player has registered more fast breaks than Kyogo and the Japan international certainly benefits from O’Riley’s defence-splitting passes.

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When it comes to creativity, O’Riley certainly stands out with 93 chances created and 13 assists but Palma is notably productive (65 chances created and nine assists) – given the Honduran has clocked less than half the game-time with merely 1,396 minutes.

Rodgers has pushed his full-backs high this term. In fact, Taylor and Alistair Johnston have completed a team-topping number of passes in the final third – ahead of McGregor and O’Riley.

Both Celtic and Rangers have won the ball back higher than any other team, with turnovers averaging 44m from their own goal. Playing a high line requires a high press and counter-press to prevent counterattacks and Celtic have excelled in this area.

Once again, O’Riley leads the way for pressing from the front with a league-topping number of turnovers in the final third, but the Dane also ranks second for recoveries in the middle third, behind only McGregor.

As a result of that mettle, the graphic below reveals a unique level of defensive solidity, with greater intensity at the top end of the pitch – helping Rodgers’ side maintain league-topping levels of possession and reducing permeability out of possession.

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All supporters did not universally welcome Rodgers’ return to Celtic last summer due to the way he left for Leicester City in 2019. However, he stood outside Celtic Park last June and addressed the fans with this message: “For those who I need to convince, I will see you here in May.”

May has arrived and as the stats prove, Rodgers has delivered – Celtic are champions again.

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