In a game that meant little to the Scottish Premiership table, Old Firm meant everything to the pair of teams involved.
Through 88 minutes, it looked as if Rangers pulled off one of its great stunners. A win over a Celtic side that has been as close to perfect as possible. Yes, it was a clash between the top two teams in the table. However, the gap between the two entering the game was nine points. After 19 fixtures, Celtic won 18 and lost just once, a 2-0 loss to St. Mirren.
Therefore, Rangers holding a lead with just two minutes of the 90 remaining oozed tension. James Tavernier, whose penalty put Rangers up 2-1 in the 53rd minute, won a defensive clearance in the 80th minute. The challenge, which left the Englishman bloodied, raised massive applause.
That was, until Kyogo Furuhashi spoiled the party in the 88th minute. After a disorganized sequence of play, the ball squirmed to the penalty spot. Furuhashi lashed the ball into the roof of the net, dulling Ibrox into a murmur.
Despite seven minutes of stoppage time, neither team formed a true threat after that goal. A pair of goals from Japanese internationals did enough for Celtic to get something out of the game. For Rangers, a pair of goals early in the second half only yielded a point. Still, it is a well-earned point in a season of change at Ibrox against a heavily favored Celtic side.
Old Firm delivers fireworks
When Daizen Maeda scored in the fifth minute, there were concerns over a blowout. A horrendous giveaway in the midfield by striker Alfredo Morelos sprung Maeda into an instant counter attack.
Rangers’ inability to clear led to Celtic’s second goal. Traditionally, Rangers are decent defensively in league play. The pair of goals conceded in matchday 20 brought the goals against total on the season to 20. That goal-per-game against is second best to, unsurprisingly, Celtic.
However, in Old Firm, Celtic punishes defensive miscues better than any other team in the Scottish Premiership. With 63 goals scored in its 20 games now, Celtic is on pace for one of the best goal-scoring seasons in recent seasons. On this pace, Celtic would surmount its record 105 goals in the 2003/04 campaign.
Americans in the mix on both sides
There was potential for more goals in this game. Prior to Celtic’s equalizer, Malik Tillman fired a shot that deflected away from the Celtic goal. In what could have put the game to bed, it was another American defying his compatriot. Cameron Carter-Vickers, who made one appearance at the 2022 World Cup, made a desperate block to prevent Tillman’s effort from reaching Joe Hart.
Moreover, Carter-Vickers had a strong game, despite the two goals conceded. James Sands and Malik Tillman both featured for Rangers. In fact, Sands replaced Tillman in the 85th minute, not long after Carter Vickers’s block. They did not do quite as well, with Tillman’s biggest contribution likely being the miss late on to seal the three points.
PHOTO: IMAGO / PA Images
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