Kyogo Furuhashi scored an 88th-minute equaliser to rescue a 2-2 draw for Celtic in Monday’s Old Firm derby, preserving the Hoops’ nine-point lead in the Scottish Premiership.
Rangers were on course for a deserved victory that would have breathed life into the title race, but the away side nabbed a crucial leveller right near the end.
Daizen Maeda had initially given Celtic an early lead, but Rangers soon established dominance and were good value for their lead following a quickfire double from Ryan Kent and James Tavernier early in the second half.
But when Rangers appeared to be cruising to a potentially vital victory, Kyogo emphatically finished from close range to stun the home crowd and salvage a point.
Had it not been for a defensive error, Rangers would not have trailed in the first place.
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) January 2, 2023
Alfredo Morelos’ blind pass into the middle was seized upon by Maeda, who rode Tavernier’s feeble challenge and skipped past Connor Goldson before slotting home.
Morelos then forced a Joe Hart error that led to Kent hitting the post from the edge of the box, seemingly jolting Rangers into life.
They finished the half with a hat-trick of Morelos chances, and their positivity paid off early in the second period as Kent curled a fine finish into the top-right corner.
Fashion Sakala, who also played a role for the equaliser, then lured Carl Starfelt into a clumsy foul in the box, and Tavernier converted the spot-kick.
It was not enough to clinch victory, though.
The ball fell kindly for Furuhashi after a scrappy passage late on, and he smashed home the goal many will feel ends the Gers’ title hopes.
What does it mean? Rangers left bereft as Celtic spare themselves
Victory for Rangers here could have been hugely significant. For starters, the points deficit would have been reduced to a less daunting six.
Sure, the big two do not drop many points in Scotland, but clearly Rangers will have had a much greater outlook – and Michael Beale would have become the first Gers boss since Ally McCoist in September 2011 to win his maiden Old Firm match.
But it is difficult to look beyond Furuhashi’s equaliser being something akin to a chequered flag. It will take something special from Rangers – or dramatically bad from Celtic – for Ange Postecoglou’s men to not win the title from here.
Furuhashi alert when it matters
For the most part, Furuhashi was anonymous here. It is not entirely on him, because there was not much service, especially in the second half, but it is still worth saying.
His tally of 14 touches was the fewest of any starter, he attempted just seven passes and had only one shot. And yet, he was there at the right moment at the end.
Sakala stands tall
His performance certainly was not perfect, but Sakala clearly deserves praise for his effectiveness. He set up Kent’s equaliser and then won the penalty from which Tavernier made it 2-1 – you cannot be much more decisive.
Rangers go to Dundee United on Sunday, while Celtic host Kilmarnock the day before.
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