Kyogo Furuhashi’s late equalizer robbed Rangers of a famous Old Firm comeback victory and preserved Celtic’s nine-point lead in the Scottish Premiership.
Daizen Maeda recovered a blind pass from Alfredo Morelos and fired the leaders into the lead after five minutes.
But Ryan Kent took Rangers level 100 seconds after the break and James Tavernier converted a penalty after Carl Starfelt fouled Fashion Sakala.
Kyogo’s 88th-minute goal prevented Michael Beale from making his dream Old Firm debut as boss.
The start and finish were all Celtic, but in between a kitchen sink was thrown at them. Just when you thought they were beaten and the league title race wasn’t as good as we thought, they equalized.
A dramatic moment. Perhaps a defining moment for the title.
Celtic looked superior early on, and it wasn’t as if Rangers hadn’t been warned about Celtic’s quick starts in those games. Going into this one, Ange Postecoglou’s side had scored 10 league goals against Rangers, including nine in the first half and three of nine in the opening minutes.
Make four. Morelos’ day started with a careless ball through their midfield into space occupied by Maeda and Tavernier. Maeda won the ball, sped away from the full-back, passed Connor Goldson and beat Allan McGregor with a fine finish. It was a goal of unforgiving quality.
A win and Celtic’s lead would have extended to 12 points. Rangers’ hopes of challenging for the title were hanging by a thread at that point.
Within 20 minutes Celtic were smooth and Rangers were in shock. The home side looked anxious and vulnerable – Sakala was really the only one with the right advantage – then Greg Taylor got injured, Josip Juranovic appeared as an auxiliary left-back in front of the bench Alexandro Bernabei and everything changed little time after.
Juranovic had a great World Cup with Croatia and has a bronze medal to show for. Here, playing out of position and getting roasted by Sakala, all he had was a red face.
The first signs of a change in momentum appeared just before the half-hour mark when Joe Hart lingered in possession and was pounded by Morelos. After blaming Hart’s clearance, the striker played him to Glen Kamara who transferred him to Kent.
He had space and time and tried to cushion his finish in the corner of Hart’s net rather than pull out the bazooka and blast it home, as he did with flying colors later on. Hart recovered to make a great save, but Kent’s pained expression told its own story.
Celtic have now lost their temper. Time and time again Postecoglou gesticulated at the wastefulness of his players. Slowly but surely Rangers were entering the game. They should have been level when Morelos had a free header from a Tavernier corner but he didn’t find the target.
Three minutes later, it was the exact same story. Same type of corner from the same side of the field, shot by the same man and deflected with a header by the same striker, Morelos ahead of Juranovic.
It was three big chances and no goals. Few teams in Scotland can get away with such debauchery against Celtic, but it wasn’t the smooth, paced Celtic we’ve seen so often. And it wasn’t the vulnerable side of the Rangers personality that we were seeing either.
It took Rangers 100 seconds of the new half to get the goal they deserved, with Sakala heavily involved beating Juranovic before playing it against Kent, who buried an absolute peach out of Hart’s reach.
Finishing has long been Kent’s pet peeve. He had scored just once in 26 games before this one – one in 38 if you include last season – but his striking this time was pure and utterly unstoppable.
Ibrox were electrified – then Rangers scored again. Sakala passed Juranovic then fell into the box under a challenge from Starfelt. Referee John Beaton pointed the spot and Tavernier hit it in front of Hart. In a relative blink of an eye, the Rangers were ahead.
It was a sensational comeback from a team displaying new steel under Beale. His counterpart, meanwhile, brought in the attacking cavalry in an attempt to overthrow him. Georgios Giakoumakis. Liel Abada and Jota all appeared for the rescue mission.
All those up front left Celtic open in defence, of course, and a late counter-attack could have wrapped it up before the hour mark. Kent drove away and fed Malik Tillman, whose goal effort was blocked by Cameron Carter-Vickers. It was a very big intervention, as it turned out.
Celtic have made it an art form to score late goals this season, but until Kyogo did it you really doubted it. They had posed little or no threat so far. Rangers had looked comfortable in their lead. There were a few minutes left and the visitors seemed beaten.
Fake. Celtic had another try. Jota’s cross rang around the Rangers box, their defense suddenly confused. As the ball broke free, Kyogo’s eyes widened as he received it. The striker, with no Old Firm goal to his name, smashed it to silence Ibrox, barring the pocket of delirious visitors lurking in the corner.
It was a goal that sickened Rangers deeply. What must you do to beat this Celtic team? The gap remains at nine points with a goal difference effectively making it 10. Despite their best efforts, the Mountain Rangers are looking as high as they have ever been.
Player of the match – Fashion Sakala
Rangers closer, but not close enough – analysis
Before the match, most agreed that a win was essential for Rangers if they were to have a realistic chance of carrying Celtic in the title hunt.
Few will have changed their minds after the Postecoglou side left Ibrox with a point that preserves their wide cushion at the top – but many may have seen signs that Rangers are fidgeting under Beale.
Celtic entered the game full of confidence, but the way Rangers took the game from them after falling behind at the start bodes well for the future under the new manager of Ibrox. Kyogo’s equalizer may well mean that this season belongs to Celtic, however.
What did they say?
Rangers manager Michael Beale to Sky Sports: “The two goals for us [to lose] are bad goals to give, certainly the one at the beginning.
“We started well but then we cashed in and took 10/15 minutes to get together. We had two big chances with Alfredo then Kent who hit the post.
“Their equalizer was poor from us, we sat deep and had three or four chances to clear it.”
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou to Sky Sports: “It was a great game of football before moving on, it was a stunning game. All eyes, not just in Scotland, but around the world were on him, and both teams took part – a real derby.”
On the mistakes made by his players, he added: “They are human beings, they are not robots. It is a great occasion, a great game, and we have just tightened up in some areas where our football is weak. much smoother and we didn’t do that today.”
Celtic host Kilmarnock on January 7 (15:00 GMT) while Rangers travel to Dundee United the following day, kicking off at 16:00.