Green and Blue Saltire Flag

The Greatest Old Firm Derbies Ever

Always the headline clashes of the Scottish season, Old Firm derby encounters rarely disappoint, with the passion in the stands and on the pitch putting many other derby fixtures firmly in the shade. Even a goalless draw between Celtic and Rangers tends to produce significantly more talking points than your average SPL clash, but when the goalmouth action matches the seething rivalry, fans far and wide really are in for a treat.

The latest Old Firm dust-up to write a page in the history book came at Ibrox on 7 April 2024. Sitting first and second in the table, separated by only a single point, the set-up could scarcely have been better – and how the game delivered! Six goals went in, including a penalty apiece, as the home side twice came from behind to snatch a point – Rabbi Montondo’s sensational strike in the third minute of added-on time almost sending the Ibrox roof into the stratosphere. This was a game unlikely to be forgotten any time soon by those in attendance or watching on TV.

Recency bias immediately set in to see the 3-3 draw proclaimed the greatest-ever Old Firm derby. In terms of excitement and drama, you can make a decent argument for that being the case, but this 2024 showstopper isn’t alone in the annals of Old Firm excellence. The following fixtures also boast solid claims of being the best of them all.

1957 – Scottish League Cup Final: Celtic 7 – 1 Rangers

One for Celtic fans to kick things off; this 1957 Scottish League Cup Final saw the Bhoys obliterate their rivals in a dominant display at Hampden Park. Billy McPhail cemented his place in Celtic legend with a fabulous hat-trick, whilst the delirious Celtic supporters christened the final, “Hampden in the Sun” – a phrase which remains a part of the Hoops phrasebook to this day.

1979 – Scottish Premier Division: Celtic 4 – 2 Rangers

Knowing a win would seal the title for Celtic, Rangers need no further motivation headed into this one. The game could scarcely have begun much better for the visitors, who found themselves a goal and a man to the good following the dismissal of Johnny Doyle just after the break.

However, that was about as good as it got for Rangers. Roy Aitken and George McCluskey strikes edged the hosts ahead. Bobby Russel’s equaliser was then swiftly undone by a Colin Jackson own goal before Murdo McCleod spectacularly confirmed the title when leathering a last-minute 20-yard strike into the top corner – cue pandemonium.

1987 – Scottish Premiership: Rangers 2 – 2 Celtic

Other Old Firm clashes may have featured more goals or scintillating play, but topping the bill in the infamy stakes is this pyrotechnic clash from 1987.

Stepping in to referee his first Old Firm clash, poor old Jim Duncan may have feared the worst, but sometimes the worst is even worse than you can imagine. The fun began when a first-half collision between Chris Woods and Frank McAvennie saw the pair come to blows, each receiving a straight red for their trouble. A goal from Andy Walker and then a Terry Butcher own goal fired Celtic into a two-goal lead before it proved all too much for Butcher, who joined Woods and McAvennie in taking an early bath.

Two goals down and down to nine men, surely no way back for the hosts. Not so. Ally McCoist pulled one back before Richard Gough tapped home in the last minute for an improbable equaliser. Wild scenes at the end, but there was still more to come, with Butcher, McAvennie, and Woods all charged with a breach of the peace and ending up in court.

1988 – Scottish Premier Division: Rangers 5 – 1 Celtic

If you are going to wipe the smiles off the faces of your bitter rivals, this 1988 rout is a fine example of how to do it. Arriving on the back of a double-winning campaign the previous season, Celtic looked set to confirm their dominance when taking an early lead through Frank McAvennie.

However, falling behind only served to spark Rangers into life, Ally McCoist (twice), Kevin Drinkell, Mark Walters, and this Ray Wilkins thunderbolt sending the champions home with the tail between their legs.

For many fans, this game marked the turning point from which Rangers marched to the next nine league titles.

1999 – Scottish Premier League: Celtic 0 – 3 Rangers

Whoever it was that suggested one of the most incendiary fixtures of the sporting world should kick off at 6:05pm on a Bank Holiday Sunday had surely had a Buckfast or two too many – which is precisely what the majority of the crowd appear to have consumed by the time the players made their way down the tunnel. The fact that Rangers would clinch the league title should they win only added fuel to the fire.

No prizes for guessing how this one went. With the out-of-control atmosphere in the stands spilling over onto the pitch, the home side’s Stephane Mahé refused to leave the field following a second yellow card. One fan ran onto the pitch, whilst another flattened referee Hugh Dallas with a flying coin, with Rod Wallace and Vidar Riseth of Rangers later being sent off by the dazed officiator. As for the game itself, Rangers won in a canter to send the temperature of the Parkhead faithful way beyond boiling point.

2000 – Scottish Premier League – Celtic 6 – 2 Rangers

Any lingering hurt from that 1999 clash was wiped out in emphatic style just one year later. As far as debuts in the managerial hot seat go, few have managed to top this effort from Martin O’Neill. Thanks to strikes from Chris Sutton, Stilyan Petrov and Paul Lambert, Celtic were in party mood by the end of the 11th minute.

Claudio Reyna pulled one back before the break, but Celtic were in no mood to hold back. Billy Dodds, Larsson and Sutton poured on the misery for the Teddy Bears in a second half as one-sided as the first.

2002 – Scottish Cup Final: Rangers 3 – 2 Celtic

Celtic and Rangers have met 17 times in the Scottish Cup final, with this 2002 matchup being the pick of the bunch. John Hartson fired Celtic into a 19th-minute lead, only for Peter Løvenkrands to reply almost instantly. 1-1 at the break.

Bobo Balde restored Celtic’s advantage five minutes into the second half but back came Rangers through a Barry Ferguson effort on 69 minutes. No change, as the clocked ticked down towards 90 minutes, then with extra time looming, up popped Peter Løvenkrands to win it at the death.

2018 – Scottish Premiership: Rangers 2 – 3 Celtic

Having been way off the pace earlier in the campaign, Rangers had cut the gap to Celtic down to just six points heading into this one. Win this, and an improbable league title would start to look like a real possibility – lose it, and the Scottish FA would locate the green and white ribbons to adorn the trophy.

Rangers started at a million miles an hour and took the lead through Josh Windass in the third minute, only for Tom Rogic to swiftly level. Back came Rangers through Daniel Cadeias on 26 minutes, but the hosts couldn’t cling on for a half-time lead, Moussa Dembele racing through to equalise just before the break.

The balance once again swung towards Rangers following the sending off of Jose Simunovic for a forearm smash to the chin of Alfredo Morelos. However, it was 10-man Celtic who won it courtesy of a wonderful strike from Odsonne Edouard in the 90th minute. There was still time for Morelos to hit the post when faced with an open goal from three yards – compounding the misery of the home crowd.