Rangers remain on course for an unbeaten Premiership season after Alfredo Morelos’ first Old Firm goal salvaged a point for the Light Blues – but they can no longer reach a record points tally of 106 points after the 1-1 draw with Celtic.
Following the midweek defeat to Slavia Prague in the Europa League Gerrard made two changes to the side, Nathan Patterson dropping to the bench after being an injury doubt pre-match and Scott Arfield also making way with Fil Helander and Ianis Hagi coming in; leaving Leon Balogun to move to right-back to accommodate the absence of Patterson.
The hosts named an unchanged side from their last outing – the 0-0 draw with Dundee United which confirmed Rangers as champions – with both sides foregoing the now-customary taking the knee to instead stand together in a show against racism following the abuse of Glen Kamara earlier in the week.
Despite the disappointment of the Prague defeat, Rangers started brightly and had plenty of the ball early on as they looked to dictate the tempo early on and grab an early lead, with Celtic struggling to really get going in the opening quarter of an hour.
By Old Firm standards it was a laborious start from both sides and lacked the usual urgency that is a regular sight in the opening stages of these games and, given Rangers’ Europa League exertions on Thursday, Celtic’s lack of pressing seemed to be a bizarre choice – although it would soon pay off.
Some slack defending by the Gers allowed Celtic to grab a foothold and after surviving one scare, Mohamed Elyounoussi headed home after 23 minutes with Filip Helander letting the Celtic star get in behind him and fire a diving header home from Odsonne Edouard’s cross.
Just a few moments later Celtic were sure they should have had a penalty when Edouard went down under no contact from Borna Barisic but referee Willie Collum wasn’t conned and booked the Frenchman for diving.
Going behind briefly rattled Rangers and there was clear problems down the right as Balogun regularly exposed, leaving Connor Goldson having to try and make up the space and close down the Celtic attack a few times.
With the minutes ticking down to the break, Rangers pulled themselves level as Morelos finally broke his Old Firm duck – and it was a goal all of Celtic’s own doing after a woeful pass by Jonjoe Kenny gifted the Gers a corner.
Borna Barisic’s whipped ball was headed across goal by Balogun and the Colombian bundled it over the line from close-range to grab his first goal in fifteen attempts against Celtic and restore parity between the sides.
Before Willie Collum blew his whistle to signal the end of the opening 45, both keepers had to make important saves within a few minutes of each other – Bain stopping what looked a certain goal as the game finally sprung into life.
Out of nowhere Rangers are level and it is Alfredo Morelos at the back post to get the equaliser!
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) March 21, 2021
The second 45 started off in a much livelier fashion the first and Morelos could have had a double soon after the restart when the ball managed to squirm through to him but it wouldn’t sit right and he couldn’t get a shot off.
Allan McGregor was then called back into action with an impressive save from Edouard’s effort from 25 yards out as both sides had early chances to get themselves in front.
After a torrid opening 55 minutes, Leon Balogun was replaced by Nathan Patterson, the teenager coming on to fill the gaps Celtic had been exploiting down the Gers’ right and avoid falling behind for a second time in the game – although it wasn’t an easy start for Patterson either.
The game settled down a bit, as both sides gifted the other possession and Celtic picking up a succession of corners before Gerrard again turned to his subs and introduced Scott Arfield for Ianis Hagi for the final 25 minutes and the game still very much in the balance.
The Canadian’s addition allowed Joe Aribo to push further forward as Arfield sat alongside Steven Davis and Glen Kamara in the middle of the park – although Aribo already looked at this stage as if his race was run.
Edouard was arguably the luckiest man inside Celtic Park on the 75th minute when he was taken clean off his feet by a stiff gust of wind but this time Willie Collum opted to keep his cards in his pockets and spare the Frenchman a red card.
Gerrard obviously felt the game was still there to be win though, making a final, double, change as Kemar Roofe and Scott Wright were brought on for Alfredo Morelos and Joe Aribo – Morelos making his way off with his usual cheerful demeanour when substituted.
Rangers were pushing in search for a late winner as Roofe went close but could only watch as his effort trickled wide of the near post as Bain scrambled across in a desperate bid to clear his lines.
There wouldn’t be a late winner though and Gerrard willbe happy enough with a share of the spoils even if it was a pretty lucklustre performance from his side for long spells of the game.
Rangers: McGregor, Balogun, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Kamara, Davis, Aribo, Hagi, Kent, Morelos.
Subs: McLaughlin, Bassey, Defoe, Itten, Zungu, Patterson, Wright, Roofe, Arfield.
Celtic: Bain; Kenny, Welsh, Ajer, Laxalt; Brown, McGregor, Turnbull, Christie; Elyounoussi, Edouard.
Subs: Barkas, Taylor, Duffy, Bitton, Griffiths, Kilmala, Soro, Griffiths.
Rangers fans were loving it this morning as Scotland woke up covered in red, white and blue ahead of the Old Firm