Alfredo Morelos’ first goal in 13 Old Firm derbies ensures Rangers remain on course for an unbeaten Scottish Premiership season after draw at Celtic.
The Colombian striker stooped to head in after Mohamed Elyounoussi had done similar earlier in the first half to deservedly put Celtic in front.
In the second half, neither side could create many chances and it ended level, meaning that five matches now stand between Rangers and an undefeated league campaign.
However, their inability to win means Steven Gerrard’s men can no longer match Celtic’s 106-point haul in their unbeaten 2016-17 campaign under Brendan Rodgers.
Both sets of players opted not to take the knee before kick-off and instead stood together against racism, after Rangers’ Glen Kamara was allegedly racially abused by Slavia Prague’s Ondrej Kudela in Thursday’s Europa League tie.
In a nice touch, Celtic captain Scott Brown approached Kamara as the teams were warming up to offer his support, as both clubs sent a clear message of unity on the issue.
After the events of Thursday, it was perhaps expected that Rangers would be physically and mentally drained, while Celtic had not played since relinquishing their title a fortnight ago.
However, the home side also started tamely before Elyounoussi’s terrific header sparked them into life.
The goal came down Rangers’ right-hand side – where Leon Balogun was regularly exposed as a right-back before being replaced in the 55th minute – with Callum McGregor’s brilliant through ball finding the lively Odsonne Edouard, whose delicious cross invited Elyounoussi to thump home.
Edouard was booked for diving shortly after the opener but, that aside, the French striker turned in a fine performance, and only two terrific saves from Alan McGregor stopped him scoring.
But Celtic were pegged back against the run of play in typical fashion, as their set-piece frailties were exposed.
Balogun – marked by the much smaller Brown – flicked on Borna Barisic’s corner to the back post, where Morelos was lurking to nod into the net, ending four years of personal frustration in this fixture.
Rangers were far from their best and created few other chances, the best of them a spectacular volley from Ryan Kent from a tight angle which Scott Bain pushed away before the break, and the Celtic goalkeeper almost kicked the ball in off Stephen Welsh later on.
Celtic looked the more threatening in a tight second half, with Edouard, Elyounoussi and Welsh all heading over. But it wasn’t to be for the once dominant force of Scottish football, though they did at least prevent a fourth straight derby defeat.
Man of the match – Odsonne Edouard
What did we learn?
It’s difficult to take much from a dead-rubber derby. From a Celtic point of view, Edouard’s link-up with Elyounoussi was the source of their best play, but it faded in the second half, like many of their performances this season.
There were encouraging signs, for sure, but they still lack conviction in the final third, at times in this game overplaying rather than making more direct runs and passes, or having a shot. Defending set-pieces is an issue that pre-dates this season, but was once again exposed.
As for Rangers, their job for the season is done having clinched the title with plenty to spare, and a draw suits them in their quest for an ‘invincible’ league campaign.
After the tumultuous scenes on Thursday and the emotional toll it must have took on the whole squad, it is perhaps unsurprising that Gerrard’s side were below par.
One issue of continued concern is right-back, as Balogun was again unconvincing. With James Tavernier injured and Nathan Patterson facing a lengthy ban for a Covid breach, the Rangers boss may need another solution in that area.
Both sides switch their focus to the Scottish Cup, as Celtic host either Arbroath or Falkirk in the third round on the weekend of 3/4 April, and Rangers are up against Cove Rangers.