So then, they’re not perfect after all. Celtic were held in the league for the first time since September 18. Yes, you read that right.
Fiery does not quite do this Old Firm derby justice and there was drama to the last, three minutes remaining on the clock when Clint Hill stole a march at the back post, pouncing on Craig Gordon’s save, to ram home a late equaliser.
Still, just the 26 Scottish Premiership wins for Brendan Rodgers. Two draws and the title will be wrapped up very shortly indeed. Celtic might’ve even nicked it in stoppage-time.
Rangers’ Clint Hill reacts first to Craig Gordon’s save and taps the ball into the back of the net to earn a deserved draw
Rangers players congratulate Hill, 38, after scoring the equaliser as their travelling fans celebrate in the background
Celtic starts surround Stuart Armstrong after his effort into the bottom right-hand corner gives them a first-half lead
Wes Foderingham dives to his left but he cannot prevent Armstrong’s powerful strike from finding the back of the net
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND LEAGUE TABLE
CELTIC: Gordon, Lustig, Boyata, Sviatchenko, Tierney, Bitton (McGregor 46), Brown, Forrest (Roberts 69), Armstrong (Griffiths 73), Sinclair, Dembele.
SUBS NOT USED: Simunovic, Gamboa, De Vries, Eboue.
GOALS: Armstrong 35
BOOKINGS: Brown, Lustig
RANGERS: Foderingham, Hodson, Hill, Wilson, Wallace, Tavernier, Holt (Forrester 81), Hyndman, Waghorn (O’Halloran 84), Miller, McKay (Windass 59).
SUBS NOT USED: Alnwick, Dodoo, Senderos, Bates.
BOOKINGS: Waghorn, Wilson, Tavernier, Hill
REFEREE: Bobby Madden (Scotland)
- Scottish Premiership
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
But this was a minor inconvenience, Rangers indicating to new manager Pedro Caixinha there is life in them moving forward.
Hill’s late slide at the back post represents great hope for the wounded Gers. Rodgers will not lose too much sleep, however. This has been one of the most one-sided domestic leagues in Europe over the last century and what a start to life north of the border it’s been for Rodgers.
They did not fizz going forward, nor control this game for any great length, but the unbeaten run continues. Three Old Firm victories from four, too.
Stuart Armstrong thought he had won this with a quite stunning strike towards the end of the first half, but Rangers rallied and Caixinha will have been heartened by his new club’s desire to right previous wrongs.
Pedro Caixinha, the newly appointed manager of Rangers, is seen watching the action unfold from the Celtic Park stands
Police contain Rangers fans as they make their way to Celtic Park prior to the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match
Celtic fans hold up a stunning two-tier mural of club legends as the teams prepare to start the game on Sunday afternoon
Martyn Waghorn of Rangers scuffs his chance to give Rangers the lead with Craig Gordon making a fine save to deny him
Rangers did not go about that with any great purity, turning this into a slog – Graeme Murty clearly having told them to go to war for him on his last outing as caretaker.
Caixinha mused alongside agent Pedro Mendes in the stands before the work really begins on restoring former glories from Monday morning.
What he witnessed was a rugged display by the visitors, who might have taken the lead when Martyn Waghorn raced clear after Kenny Miller’s clever ball but Craig Gordon stood tall and blocked with his legs.
Up until that point Celtic had been sluggish, anxious in possession at the back and one-paced in midfield. The tenacity with which Rangers harried had those in hoops questioning to what extent they could play.
Armstrong evades the challenge of four Rangers defenders to get a shot away, which beats goalkeeper Foderingham
Armstrong celebrates with tangible passion in front of an elated Celtic Park crowd after breaking the deadlock
Celtic fans are sent into a state of jubilation after seeing Armstrong give their side the lead 35 minutes into the first half
Armstrong comes close to doubling Celtic’s lead with a ferociously driven effort, which forces Fotheringham into action
Tavernier of Rangers upends Celtic striker Moussa Dembele in the box but referee Bobby Madley waves away penalty claims
Manchester United scout Marcel Bout was present, yet top scorer Moussa Dembele failed to hit his previous heights this season. Left back Kieran Tierney, meanwhile, will continue to attract suitors.
The champions elect only really woke up on the half-hour, Scott Brown and James Forrest tearing through the middle of the park to win a free-kick 25 yards out.
Armstrong took it, forcing Wes Foderingham to tip onto the post and wide. With that, the safe standing section were orchestrating the din and Celtic led within five minutes.
Again, Forrest had much to do with it. He was part of a duo – with eventual goalscorer Armstrong – who pinned Rangers back down the left. Jason Holt was unawares on the edge of his own box, Armstrong pinching possession before exchanging passes with Forrest.
Celtic captain and star midfielder Scott Brown confronts Rangers star Jason Holt as tempers boil in the first half exchanges
Celtic star Armstrong competes for the ball with Rangers star Lee Wallace, who draws a foul from his counterpart
Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon rises above Rangers star Waghorn to claim the ball as defender Mikael Lustig watches on
Celtic midfielder Brown squares up to Waghorn as the temperature rises in a hotly contested Old Firm derby
Callum McGregor of Celtic battles for the ball with Rangers defender Clint Hill and Rangers midfielder Jason Holt
Rangers star James Tavernier earns himself a place in the referee’s book after a bad slide tackle on Celtic’s Kieran Tierney
Still much to do from there, Armstrong’s first touch prodded out from under his feet and the second – with little to no backlift – flew past Foderingham at his near post.
How much longer can Gordon Strachan, housed in the directors’ box, continue to ignore the 24-year-old? A Scotland call-up must beckon this month to cap what has been a fine season.
He nearly notched a second after the break, flashing across goal only for Foderingham to thwart the effort and then clawing another away.
Waghorn – booked earlier for a crude challenge on Nir Bitton – had another super opportunity but was again foiled by Gordon when attempting to turn in Miller’s cross.
It became more stretched as Rangers searched for an equaliser, Holt almost atoning for his first-half sloppiness by curling wide. And then, ghosting in at the back was Hill. The most significant result of Rangers’ season thus far.
Sir Rod Stewart, one of many famous Celtic fans, enjoys the game with his family in the Celtic Park directors box
Belgium manager and former Motherwell player Roberto Martinez watches the action unfold from the Celtic Park stands