The second of January was a day of many firsts in the SPFL, first match day of the year and was also the first set of derby games in the form of the Old Firm and the Lanarkshire derby.
Both games held massive stakes for the four teams it involved, with Rangers being top of the table and keen to continue increase the gap between them and their rivals Celtic. Celtic were relying on a win to install hope amongst their fans that the dream of achieving ten consecutive league titles in a row was still achievable. For Hamilton Accies and Motherwell, it was the bottom of the table vs tenth but with only two points separating Motherwell from Accies going into the match there was a real sense of fear and hope amongst fans that the game would see their club stay afloat.
The first game, Rangers vs Celtic kicked off at 12:30pm at Ibrox.
The game opened with a touching memorial to mark 50 years since 66 Rangers fans tragically lost their lives after stairway 13 at Ibrox after a crush occurred on the stairwell, both teams placed a wreath and took part in a minute’s silence to remember the innocent lives lost.
The first half showed a dominant Celtic hungry for goals with Odsonne Édouard making an excellent attempt at goal in the first two minutes of the game, unfortunately the shot was no match for Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGgregor as he made a lucky save.
McGregor wasn’t able to relax for long as five minutes into the match Leigh Griffiths made a valiant attempt at goal that was deflected by McGregor and not even a second later newfound Celtic superstar David Turnbull tries to slide the ball in but is deflected by McGregor and is marked offside in the process.
On the twelfth minute the same situation plays out again following a magnificent cross from Turnbull to Griffiths but unfortunately the hoops it ended up going off past the post. Griffiths attempted to try his luck again in the 21st minute.
Not only were their goal attempts savage the bhoys defensive tactics seen some harsh tackles playing out leading to Celtic player Ismaila Soro receiving several fouls and eventually a booking on the 40th minute.
It wasn’t just Soro that was penalised in the first half for his defensive behaviour, as a minute before this Rangers player Steven Davis picked up the match’s first yellow card.
At half the statistics showed that Celtic had suffered from 12 fouls and three offside rulings. Three out of their 11 shots were on target compared to Rangers’ three that were off target and Rangers held 47% possession compared to Celtic holding 53%.
Right from the get-go Steven Gerrard’s side came out with a new attitude and player in the form of Ianis Hagi who replaced Kemar Roofe.
Although throughout the full match Rangers had zero attempts at goal on target their most valiant efforts came in the 50th minute as Hagi’s effort falls past the post. A second attempt came from Morelos in the 56th minute but his efforts were deflected.
Arguably the most controversial of the game came when Nir Bitton was sent off on the 62nd minute after a questionable tackle seen him dragging Morelos to the floor.
The situation only became worse for the quadruple treble holders when part-time captain Callum McGregor scored an own goal allowing Rangers to go 1-0 up on the 70th minute.
Shortly after Scott Brown’s arrival on the pitch, a sudden commotion seemed to break out and ref Bobby Madden had to physically refrain Morelos from engaging in potential foul play with the long reigning Celtic captain and was subbed off afterwards.
This event was the catalyst that led to Rangers winning the game overall.
Once their match was over a similar narrative was playing out in Lanarkshire, Keith Lasley’s side fighting to fans their faith wasn’t misplaced and Brian Rice’s side looking to keep away from 12th in the table.
From the start Hamilton showed determination to get a good result as 10 minutes into the match as due to some miscalculated defence measures Lee Hodson sends the ball low past Chapman and into the net making it 1-0.
As the game progressed Accies player Brian Easton had to be treated for a potentially worrying injury in the 18th minutes of the match and had to be subbed as a result, leaving Scott McMann to take the mantle as captain for the remainder of the game.
Despite the score Motherwell weren’t going to back down and with some strong and valiant efforts coming from fan favourite Tony Watt, Jake Carroll and captain Declan Gallagher that couldn’t quite find the back of the net.
49 minutes into the match and Accies player Ross Callachan was able to fire the ball past Chapman making the score 2-0.
Following the second goal Watt tried to come in with a shot on goal but despites his effort, the ball was ricocheted by Gourlay.
The match wasn’t over yet as Callum Smith sent the ball flying towards the left-hand post and made Accies go 3-0 up on the 65th minute.
At full time the score remained 3-0 but the match statistics showed that Motherwell had been the more dominant side with the most possession, factoring in at 64% and had made the most shots at goal (10) with six on target, compared to Accies’ 36% possession and their eight shots at goal and their four that were on target.