THE unfurling of a banner depicting the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse – or the four horsemen and a poke of chips as the order goes in the city's fish bars – was the Celtic fans' prelude to Scotland's regular dalliance with Armageddon.

The depiction of Neil Lennon, the taxman, death and Craig Whyte galloping towards a beleaguered Rangers support was the rough message. The Celtic team riding roughshod over the Rangers team was the story of the match.

Ally McCoist's side was undone in the numbers game. They never came to terms with Neil Lennon's decision to play 3-4-1-2 but the most crucial arithmetic, and it may be relevant to Rangers for seasons to come, is that the home side had more good players than the visitors.

Lennon, who has often expressed his desire to play three at the back, indulged himself yesterday, with Glenn Loovens, Victor Wanyama and Charlie Mulgrew forming a backline, and Emilio Izaguirre and Adam Matthews, the designated full-backs, pushing on in wide areas. With Kris Commons inserting himself behind Gary Hooper and Georgios Samaras and placing himself on the toes of Rhys McCabe, the template was set for a match in which Celtic dominated possession, dominated in terms of opportunities and, well, just dominated.

Lennon was correct afterwards to suggest the importance of gameplans is often over-estimated in the wake of an Old Firm match. Systems influence a match but it is players who win it.

It is important to state therefore that this was an afternoon when some old favourites re-introduced themselves to the Celtic support. Izaguirre, who has suffered in terms of confidence after a long absence with injury, was back to his coruscating best, giving Kyle Bartley a difficult time on the left flank. The on-loan Arsenal player threw his shirt towards the Rangers support at the end of a vexing afternoon. It was saturated with the sweat of anxiety.

Gary Hooper, who has been deeply inconsistent, also re-emerged as a striker of deft touch and thundering finish. He was vital in sealing the game after Charlie Mulgrew had opened the scoring with a header from what was a Rangers exclusion zone at a corner.

This was an example of a strategy being matched with execution. The Celtic backroom staff had noted Rangers had left the area beyond the far stick unoccupied in the game against Hearts last weekend and Mulgrew capitalised yesterday.

This set-piece move was complemented on the scoreline by two devastating goals from open play and the Englishman played a huge part in both. His control and move away from Dorin Goian allowed him the space to slip a fine pass through to Commons, who finished in style.

Hooper's crashing shot that ended the scoring was an unanswerable statement of his potency when he is on his game. It was his 24th goal of the season and franked his worth as a scorer but the move leading up to his strike showed how Lennon's strategy neutered Rangers.

Rhys McCabe, the hero of the last Old Firm match, was robbed by Commons, who fed Samaras, who played in Hooper. This testified to the solid truth of the match. Commons nullified any Rangers attempt to build from the back and also posed a threat when he was on the ball. He was the perfect example of the abilities of a player being fully exploited by the shape of a team.

As Matthews and Izaguirre galloped at will down the flanks, as Commons threatened the central defence, and as Hooper scored with a blistering finality, it was easy to nominate them as the four horseman who romped away with the match.

However, the tireless efforts of Scott Brown and Joe Ledley made most of this enterprising play possible. Brown has found a positional discipline and he shrugged off the challenges of a weak Rangers midfield. Ledley scurried across the pitch, constantly closing down space and regularly intercepting the ball or executing a decisive tackle.

These efforts allowed the back three to have a comfortable afternoon and Fraser Forster to restrict his exertions to one save in either half. The work of the Celtic midfield also highlighted the contrast in the teams.

McCabe, so impressive at Ibrox last month, found that four weeks is a long time in football, and so is a split second when one is on the ball with an internationalist at one's back. Sone Aluko was lightweight and lacked influence and Maurice Edu was desperately poor. With a defence also struggling to cope, this left Lee McCulloch as an isolated and ultimately powerless figure in attack.

The arithmetic of the Blue Knights and an American tycoon will dominate the headlines over Rangers in the next few days. The bottom line yesterday was that Rangers ran up a deficit of three goals and Celtic stretched 21 points clear in the table.

It is not yet Armageddon but it may feel like it for the Rangers support.