Sunday, February 28, 2010
Maurice Edu has forever stitched his name in Old Firm lore after his goal gave Rangers a last second victory over Celtic on Sunday afternoon at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow.
For the second time in as many matches against their hated crosstown rivals, Edu was an early first half substitute due to an injury.
Back in early January the US international replaced an Nacho Novo after the Spanish midfielder had to leave the 1-1 draw at Celtic Park with a knee injury in the 17th minute.
Sunday saw Lee McCulloch go down in pain in the 26th minute calling on Edu to replace the midfielder. The Californian replaced McCulloch and rounded out the match with his dramatic game-winner in the third minute of second half stoppage time.
Fellow American DaMarcus Beasley was part of the gameday roster but did not see any action for the Light Blues.
Like all Old Firm matches, both teams took to the field in a pulsating environment knowing that if one of them emerged victorious, it would seriously alter the title race in the Scottish Premier League.
Each team traded early scoring chances before settling into a rhythm in the first part of the second half, but that would come to a halt in the 26th minute when McCulloch was forced to leave the field with a foot injury paving the way for Edu's entrance.
The American was thought to have scored just seconds after coming on, but his 27th minute goal was annulled by the referee who had blown his whistle signaling a handball had occurred before Edu's shot.
As the match continued to linger on, the play by both goalkeepers came to the forefront as Celtic's Artur Boruc and Rangers' Allan McGregor were called on to make several key saves.
Many expected backup Neil Alexander to mind the posts for Rangers on Sunday following McGregor's injuries sustained in an attack by thugs outside of a Glasgow bar earlier in the week, but McGregor convinced head coach Walter Smith that he was healthy to play and the move paid dividends for the hosts who enjoyed another shutout victory.
A 66th minute foul by Celtic's Scott Brown on Kyle Lafferty earned the Hoops' team captain his walking papers which enabled the Light Blues to start pushing for a goal.
Edu continued to man the defensive midfield helping thwart any Celtic chance that lurked of danger. His play was reminiscent of the solid performance he gave in last year's season deciding Old Firm match when Rangers used a 1-0 victory to catapult themselves to the SPL title.
As the final minutes ticked away, Rangers had a flurry of chances but none would come to fruition until a 93rd minute corner kick landed at the feet of Algerian defender Madjid Bougherra who sent a shot towards goal.
Boruc committed a massive error and fumbled the ball in front of his own net almost giving SPL leading scorer Kris Boyd a free look at goal. Boyd tried to knock the ball in with his thigh but was rebuffed by Boruc.
Another scramble ensued which ultimately saw the ball squirt out to Edu who was to Boyd's left. Edu pounced and poked the ball home sending the home fans into pandemonium.
The former Maryland standout was mobbed by his teammates following the goal as his last second game-winner has all but earned Rangers another SPL crown.
Edu and company now sit 10 points ahead of the Hoops in the league standings and still have a game in hand against lowly St. Mirren. Next up for Rangers is a home date with St. Mirren on Saturday.