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Wednesday 26 April 2017

Rangers escape annoys Rodgers

Celtic 1 Rangers 1

Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths is tackled in the penalty box by Rangers’ Clint Hill during their Scottish Premiership match at Celtic Park yesterday. Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths is tackled in the penalty box by Rangers’ Clint Hill during their Scottish Premiership match at Celtic Park yesterday. Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Rangers gave new boss Pedro Caixinha a boost after a late Clint Hill goal earned the Light Blues a 1-1 Premiership draw with Old Firm rivals Celtic at Parkhead.

The Portuguese coach, who agreed a three-year deal on Saturday, watched from the stand and he saw Martyn Waghorn miss a great chance for the Ibrox men before midfielder Stuart Armstrong put the home side in front in the 35th minute with a fine strike.

Brendan Rodgers' men had started to get into their stride just before the break and they dominated most of the second half, which offered little in the way of clear-cut chances until the 88th minute. That was when Rangers finally found a breakthrough as Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon parried a drive from Emerson Hyndman allowing veteran defender Hill to slam a shot into the net from close range.

It was only Celtic's second draw in 28 league games, taking them 25 points clear of second-placed Aberdeen while maintaining the 33-point gap over Rangers.

Caixinha, 46, who joins Rangers from Al Gharafa in Qatar, will have noted his new side's battling qualities but should not be fooled as there remains a tangible gap in quality between the two squads.

U20s coach Graeme Murty was in charge of Rangers again and he had to do without the suspended defender Rob Kiernan and had striker Joe Garner suspended.

Murty made two changes with Lee Hodson and Danny Wilson back into the defence which was put under no real pressure in the opening stages.

In the 18th minute a slip by defender Hill allowed Hoops striker Moussa Dembele in but he failed to connect with his shot, allowing goalkeeper Wes Foderingham to gather.

Celtic were strangely tentative and had Gordon to thank in the 24th minute when stopper Dedryck Boyata missed a Kenny Miller flick-on which sent Waghorn clean through.

Blocked

The Gers striker had time and space to pick his spot but the Scotland number one blocked the drive with his left foot and the Hoops escaped.

Celtic stepped up the pace and on the half-hour mark, after Hill had fouled Forrest 25 yards from goal, Foderingham dived low to his right to tip Armstrong's free-kick on to the post and out for a corner, which the visitors survived.

However, the Light Blues goalkeeper could only flail in the 35th minute when, after Gers midfielder Jason Holt failed to clear his lines, Armstrong took a pass from Forrest at the edge of the box and lashed a left-footed drive low into the corner.

Midfielder Callum McGregor replaced Nir Bitton for the start of the second half and Celtic began to press for a second with Foderingham saving an angled drive from Armstrong before an even better save from the excellent midfielder.

Gordon again thwarted Waghorn at the other end after a good cross on the run by Miller before Armstrong made way for Leigh Griffiths.

Dembele sliced a shot wide after turning Wilson but there was to be drama at the other end when Hill popped up with the equaliser, and in a frantic finale, a late penalty claim for a last-gasp tackle by Hill on Griffiths was waved away by referee Bobby Madden.

Rodgers believes his side should have been awarded a stoppage-time penalty.

He said: "It's never nice when you concede so late. We are disappointed with the goal but I'm really proud of the players.

"We aim to win every game and if you can't win then you take a point and my only disappointment is that it was a penalty at the end.

"Whenever Clint Hill tells me that 'he got away with it at the end' then that lets me know that it was a penalty.

"But like I say, our run continues - we were focused to get the result, we didn't get the three points but we will take the point and move onto the next game.

The draw did little material damage to Celtic who extended their lead over Aberdeen at the top of the table to 25 points and their unbeaten domestic run since to the start of the season to 35 games. They remain 33 points ahead of third-placed Rangers.

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