RANGERS fought back from a goal down to earn a deserved point at Celtic Park this afternoon in the Old Firm derby.
The better team for long spells of the game, Clint Hill fired in the leveler with just two minutes remaining as Graeme Murty’s time as caretaker boss ended on a high.
The atmosphere inside Parkhead was certainly intimidating, but the 8000 or so Gers fans did well to make themselves heard above the din as kick-off approached.
Celtic began the game on the front foot, as was to be expected, but they fashioned nothing in the opening minutes, and Lee Wallace did well to win a free-kick for the visitors in an advanced area, but James Tavernier’s ball went straight into the arms of Craig Gordon.
Indeed, that sparked a period where the Light Blues enjoyed some possession in the Celtic half, with another Tavernier free-kick and supplementary corner being cleared by the home defence.
The start from Graeme Murty’s side was certainly encouraging, and Barrie McKay put in an interesting-looking ball for Martyn Waghorn, but under heavy pressure, he could only fire over the bar.
At the other end, Moussa Dembele had Celtic’s first opportunity following a slip by Clint Hill, but he shot straight at Wes Foderingham.
Next up was the best chance of the game so far, and Martyn Waghorn really should have put Rangers ahead. Kenny Miller flicked the ball beyond the Celtic defence with Waghorn running onto it, but he was denied what would have been, at that time, a deserved goal by the outstretched left foot of Craig Gordon.
That miss almost came back to haunt Rangers straight away, as from a 25-yard free-kick, Stuart Armstrong brought out a wonderful save from Foderingham who pushed the ball onto the post before it went behind for a corner which Gers defended well.
Again, Murty’s men weren’t afraid to counter anything the home side could throw at them, and Barrie McKay attempted to repeat his heroics of last-season’s Scottish Cup semi-final with an effort from distance, but it went straight at Gordon once more.
Despite their good play and possession though, Gers fell behind on the 35 minute mark. On the edge of his own box, Jason Holt stumbled on the rutted Parkhead surface with the ball falling to James Forrest. He fed Stuart Armstrong who rifled a 20-yard drive beyond the reach of Foderingham and into the back of the net.
It was hard on Rangers, who had done well up to that point to keep Celtic at arm’s length, but they managed to keep the scoreline to just 1-0 going into the half-time interval.
The second half again began with Rangers on top and playing their football around the Celtic penalty area. Jason Holt had a shot from distance that didn’t trouble Gordon, while at the other end, the first chance for the home side came again for Armstrong, with Foderingham again doing well to deny him by pushing his shot from angle behind for a corner.
The game went into a real lull for a good 20-minute spell with neither side creating anything much of note, before from nothing, Armstrong forced Foderingham into another good save, while Rangers broke Celtic’s offside trap at the other end and really ought to have levelled.
Substitute Josh Windass played the ball forward for Kenny Miller who charged down the left wing and swung in a beautiful cross for Waghorn who found his path to goal again blocked by Gordon who had come off his line to smother his shot.
Rangers all of a sudden were right back on top of the game, and Jason Holt did well to win the ball Mikael Lustig in an advanced area, charge into the area and then flash a curling shot wide of the target.
The goal was coming, and with two minutes of normal time remaining, it duly arrived. After a deep Tavernier free-kcik was cleared back to him, he played it down the line for Emerson Hyndman who’s shot was saved by Gordon, but it fell to Clint Hill at the back post who swept the ball home to spark quite extraordinary scenes of celebration in the Rangers end.
The hero at one end, Hill doubled his status at the other end with a wonderful tackle on Leigh Griffiths to deny him a winning goal.
The equaliser was the least Rangers deserved from the game, and they now go forth into the Pedro Caixinha era full of optimism after a very strong performance here.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Hodson, Hill, Wilson, Wallace; Tavernier, Holt, Hyndman, McKay (Windass, 59); Waghorn (O’Halloran, 84), Miller.
SUBS NOT USED: Alnwick, Dodoo, Senderos, Bates.
BOOKINGS: Waghorn 17’, Wilson 32’, Tavernier, 40’, Hill, 52’.
CELTIC: Gordon, Lustig, Boyata, Sviatchenko, Tierney, Bitton, (McGregor, 45) Brown, Armstrong (Griffiths, 73), Forrest (Roberts, 69), Sinclair, Dembele.
SUBS NOT USED: De Vries, Simunovic, Gamboa, Kouassi.
BOOKINGS: Brown, 77’, Gordon, 80′.
REFEREE: Mr Bobby Madden