Celtic vs. Rangers – Football Match Report – May 1, 2022
Celtic squandered the chance to all-but secure the Scottish Premiership title following a 1-1 draw with Rangers at Celtic Park on Sunday.
Ange Postecoglou’s side, denied a 10th successive title by their arch rivals last season, would have effectively won the league on Sunday with a win as they would have surged nine points clear with three games to go, possessing a vastly superior goal difference. But the difference remains six points and the champagne remains on ice after Rangers came from behind to nick a point.
Jota handed Celtic the lead mid-way through the first half before Fashion Sakala equalised for Rangers on 67 minutes to keep the champions-elect waiting a little longer.
Postecoglou told BBC Sport: “It’s not the time for reflection. That time will come at the appropriate moment. Right now I’m just focused on supporting the players, they’ve been unbelievable this year.
“It’s still stage one as far as I’m concerned. We can play better, not through a lack of trying, a lot of these guys are still in their first year at the club.
“It was about building something this year. We were under no illusions our goal was also to have success and we’re at the doorstep of that now.”
“We knew how important the game was. We gave everything. I think we tried our best,” Sakala told Sky Sports.
“It was a special goal, very important for the team. We didn’t come for a draw.”
Celtic’s bid to win the title back this season has been boosted by their performances in the Old Firm matches — with Rangers six points clear at the turn of the year, Celtic’s league wins in these feisty showdowns have been crucial in turning the tide.
Postecoglou’s men swept past Rangers 3-0 in February and then came from behind to defeat them 2-1 at Ibrox at the start of April, to put Celtic in control. Rangers exacted some revenge with an extra-time win over their rivals in the Scottish Cup semifinals at Hampden last time out and they started brightly on Sunday, with Ryan Kent firing wide from close range when he could have done better.
He and Rangers were made to pay on 20 minutes when the home side took the lead. Daizen Maeda stormed down the left and fizzed a ball into the box, with Jota reacting quicker than Borna Barisic to steer home. Rangers, fresh from Thursday’s 1-0 first-leg defeat to RB Leipzig in the Europa League semifinals, faced a major uphill task from Jota’s opener. Since 2018, Celtic’s record from opening the scoring in the league read 90 wins from 96, with six draws.
Maeda missed a glorious chance to double the lead on 42 minutes when he glanced a header wide from close range. Sakala then gave the 800 travelling fans something to shout about when he slammed a low drive past Joe Hart, beaten by his near post. Sakala then stormed through again but this time, Hart stood firm.
The atmosphere Celtic Park, previously buoyant, turned upon Rangers’ equaliser it could have got even worse in the final 10 minutes but Hart made a fine save to deny Scott Arfield before Sakala came agonisingly close to winning it.
Sakala stormed through and with the goal at his mercy, contrived to somehow only strike the post when Hart was well beaten.