THE Old Firm game was a huge disappointment for Celtic. There’s no other way to sum it up.

Rangers deserved to win and there is absolutely no doubt about that, so credit where it is due, but the fact that Celtic blew the chance to open up that eight-point gap makes it all the more galling for them.

Had they opened up such a gap, it may to have been insurmountable, but it certainly would have laid down a huge marker. Instead, the opposite happened, and Rangers are the ones who have put that marker down.

The momentum has swung towards Ibrox, and if they win their game in hand, they now can go top of the league.

There are a lot of games to play still of course, and there could be slip ups either way, but the way things are going I can see the two games remaining between Celtic and Rangers being absolutely pivotal.

That may be a concern to Celtic fans, given that Rangers have been the better side in the last two meetings. I don’t think they were as dominant in the game at Celtic Park as they had been at Hampden where they lost, ironically enough, but nevertheless, they certainly were worthy of their win.

The matches followed similar patterns in that Rangers started the games well, Celtic struggled to get going, and with Rangers winning the midfield battle they stopped the service getting into the Celtic attackers.

If you go through the teams, the goalkeepers are as vitally important to both sides. At the back though, Rangers looked more solid that Celtic did in this game, and in midfield, which is the most important area for me, Scott Brown and Callum McGregor were edged out of it because they were outnumbered.

There was consequently no threat from Celtic up front, and even when the ball did get to the wingers or Odsonne Edouard, they were unusually hesitant.

On the other side, Alfredo Morelos can be a huge pain in the backside – I mean that as a compliment – and he was causing all sorts of problems. There’s a good player in there when he channels it in the right way, which he doesn’t always do.

He certainly caused a bit of uncertainty between Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien, and Rangers looked the more threatening side throughout.

Over the piece, you would have to say that Steven Gerrard’s side looked the more balanced team too, and they were sharper all over the park.

From Celtic’s point of view, they have to find a way to get their midfield back on top in these games. Rangers don’t make it easy for Celtic’s midfield in these games now, and there lies the crux of the problem.

Celtic have to meet that challenge. Rangers have set out their stall to close down the Celtic midfield and stop Brown and McGregor playing, and Neil Lennon has to find a way to help them influence the games more once again.

Those two played well in patches, don’t get me wrong, but I thought that Olivier Ntcham might possibly have played, and Ryan Christie would have started wide. I can see the thinking behind Christie starting centrally, but he was off the boil.

It’s easy to say that in hindsight, but in Old Firm games it tends to be the winner of the midfield battle that wins the game, and that’s what happened last Sunday.

You just have to look back to when Celtic won against Rangers in March and earlier this season at Ibrox, Brown dominated the midfield.

I don’t really buy the theory that the Celtic players were tired. McGregor was probably their liveliest player on the day, and he’s played more than anyone.

Where they do need to provide a little help is up front, because not only does Edouard need a breather, there needs to be an alternative option when things aren’t going so well too.

I know the club have been linked with Andraz Sporar, and they certainly do need someone reliable to come in as Leigh Griffiths still seems to be a little bit off full sharpness.

Overall, there’s no getting away from the fact that Celtic have been second-best in most departments over the last two Rangers fixtures.

What happens in football as a manager is that when you get a result, you’re tactically astute, and when you don’t, you’ve suddenly been out-thought. I don’t mean that to sound flippant, but the fact is that Celtic are 10 points better off at this point than they were last season.

That shows that Lennon is doing something right, as well as being an indication of how well Rangers have done to keep pace with Celtic.

He will of course be contemplating his approach against Rangers, but I have always believed Neil Lennon to be underrated in terms of his tactical knowledge, and I have no doubt he will have a plan to counter Rangers better in the next two games.

He will have to, because I think whoever comes out on top of those will be very likely to win the league.