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Celtic maintain six-point lead after Old Firm stalemate


Glasgow (AFP) – Rangers manager Giovanni Van Bronckhorst conceded his side’s chance of retaining the Scottish Premiership looks over despite battling back to draw 1-1 at Celtic on Sunday.

A share of the points leaves Cetic still six points clear at the top of the table and with a 19-goal advantage on goal difference with just three games to play.

Victory would have virtually guaranteed Celtic the title and they went in front when Jota prodded in after 21 minutes.

Fashion Sakala levelled midway through the second-half and the Zambian should have given Rangers life in the title race when he hit the post four minutes from time.

“Only a win today would give us a chance,” said Van Bronkchorst. 

“It’s still six points, with the goal difference in favour of Celtic, so it will be more difficult after today.”

However, the former Netherlands captain was heartened by Rangers second-half performance ahead of a season-defining Europa League semi-final second leg at home to RB Leipzig on Thursday.

The Glasgow giants trail the Germans 1-0 after the first leg.

“The second half you saw, after 60 or 65 mins, we were getting stronger and stronger.

“We created great chances, hit the post, you can’t ask for more. The only thing is we didn’t score the big chances we had.”

Van Bronckhorst did not leave much in reserve looking ahead to Thursday as he aimed to apply some pressure to Celtic heading into the final three games of the season.

However, only a collapse will now deny the Hoops a 10th league title in 11 years with just one more win almost certain to be enough.

“We knew they’d throw everything at us and we didn’t get beaten which is the most important thing,” said Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou.

Celtic started slowly but went ahead thanks to their only shot on target of the afternoon when Daizen Maeda flashed the ball across the Rangers box and Jota was sharpest to react to fire in the 13th goal of his loan spell from Benfica.

Maeda twice should have double the home side’s lead either side of half-time.

Firstly, the Japanese international failed to connect with a header at the back post from point blank range before firing over with just Allan McGregor to beat early in the second-half.

“When we had the ascendency, we didn’t take our chances,” added Postecoglou. 

“We’re in a good spot. Move onto the next game, put in a good performance and hopefully get us a little bit closer (to the title).”

Rangers showed no signs of tiredness from their European exertions as they finished the game by far the stronger.

Sakala caught Joe Hart out at his near post from Ryan Kent’s pass 23 minutes from time to get the visitors back in the game.

If Hart was at fault for the equaliser, he made amends with a brilliant save low to his right to deny Scott Arfield the winner in a frantic final 10 minutes.

Sakala then had a glorious chance to make himself a hero as he was played clean through, but delayed before taking on the shot allowing Cameron Carter-Vickers to narrow the angle before hitting Hart’s near post.

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