SCOTT Brown could never, even his most ardent supporter would concede, be considered a world-class footballer. But is there another player on the planet who is as much of a wind-up merchant as the Celtic captain? It is hard to think of one in the aftermath of this explosive and often ill-tempered Old Firm encounter in which he was once again at the heart of every flashpoint and fallout.

Brown was at his antagonistic best – or worst depending on your leanings – as his side recorded a 2-1 triumph over Rangers at Parkhead yesterday that sent them 13 points clear of their city rivals at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership with seven games remaining and all but assured their eighth consecutive Scottish title.

All three of the goals scored – by Odsonne Edouard in the first-half and Ryan Kent and James Forrest in the second – in a match that was a fantastic advertisement for the game in this country were of the highest quality.

HeraldScotland: Scott Brown hides the ball from Ryan KentScott Brown hides the ball from Ryan Kent

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Yet, the enduring image of the 90 minutes is of Brown grinning from ear to ear in front of the Celtic dugout as the disconsolate Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos trudged up the tunnel after being ordered off by referee Bobby Madden.

Morelos was red carded for the fifth time in the 2018/19 campaign for petulantly elbowing the midfielder in the face off the ball and could have no complaints about his punishment. He has received sound advice and innumerable warnings about his behaviour and let himself and his team down badly. But his opponent had deliberately provoked the notoriously volatile forward by having a sly kick at him just before.

Steven Gerrard was highly fortunate the visitors still had 10 men on the park when the final whistle blew. Kent lashed out at Brown, doubtless after a choice word or two had been aimed in his direction, in the centre circle after Forrest had netted with five minutes remaining. The winger only avoided the same fate as his team mate because Madden, his assistants and the fourth official all missed the incident. Retrospective disciplinary action may be forthcoming.

The Celtic skipper’s reaction to the victory after the final whistle prompted the biggest bust-up of all. He stood arms outstretched directly in front of the tiny pocket of Rangers fans who had been shoehorned into a corner of the stadium doing his trademark “Broony” celebration. Cue utter mayhem.

HeraldScotland: Scott Brown celebratesScott Brown celebrates

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It was all too much for Andy Halliday to take. He lunged angrily at his tormentor and both sets of players squared up to each other. Gerrard, his backroom team and stewards tried in vain to restore order.

Even Jimmy Bell, the veteran Rangers kit man, got in on the act. He manhandled Daniel Candeias down the touchline and back into the away dressing room as the furious Portuguese winger appealed to a bemused policewoman to intervene.

Brown polarises opinion like no other player in the game. You either, as the old saying goes, love him or loathe him. There is no middle ground. Gerrard questioned why he had felt the need to deliberately goad the away support afterwards? His opposite number Neil Lennon immediately defended his captain’s right to respond to the abuse he is singled out for in kind.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of his conduct one thing is undeniable; the Rangers players failed to deal with the considerable provocation they were subjected to by Brown and others professionally and it probably cost them a result as a consequence. They should have handled the incitment far better.

Their manager was deeply unhappy with Rangers’ indiscipline. He was not, however, displeased with how his men, Morelos aside, acquitted themselves. They were by far the better team in the second-half despite their numerical disadvantage and deserved to draw level through a well-worked Kent strike that was made possible by some good work from James Tavernier and Candeias in the build-up.

Celtic had taken the lead when Edouard received a delightful pass from Forrest, jinked outside Joe Worrall and slotted past Allan McGregor. It was the French forward’s 19th goal of the season and one of the most important. His ability to cope with the febrile atmosphere of this derby match is, unlike that of his counterpart, beyond doubt.

“In Edouard I thought we had a star player he was magnificent,” said Lennon. “He’s a quiet boy. He takes a bit of getting to know. But we just took the shackles off today and let him loose. He was outstanding in all aspects of his game today. All aspects.”

HeraldScotland: Odsonne Edouard was lauded by Neil LennonOdsonne Edouard was lauded by Neil Lennon

It was a shame that such a fine opener sparked a pitch invasion from the safe-standing section that led to the digital advertising hoardings down one side of the park being knocked over and a steward being injured as a result.

Celtic seemed to switch off after taking the lead and seeing Morelos sent off. However, they regrouped – bizarrely enough after Dedryck Boyata had limped off injured and the game became 10 against 10 – and netted what ultimately proved to be the winner with five minutes of regulation time remaining.

Callum McGregor pounced on a stray pass from Tavernier and immediately supplied Edouard who stepped outside Worrall and squared to Forrest. The wide man’s finish was clinical and sewed up three important points.

It could well prove to be a crucial result for Lennon, who has taken over from Brendan Rodgers until the end of the season, in his bid to land the manager’s job on a full-time basis.

Brown, a kindred spirit to the Northern Irishman, will doubtless be a happy man if he does achieve his aim in the coming weeks. But it will take a while to wipe the smile off his face after this.