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Sakala on target, Aribo fails to shine as Rangers hold Celtic in Old Firm derby

6:39 PM IST 01/05/22
Zambia and Rangers star Fashion Sakala.
The 25-year-old Chipolopolo star popped up with a fine finish to help the Gers snatch a draw against the Bhoys at Celtic Park

Zambia international Fashion Sakala scored in the second half to help Rangers snatch a 1-1 draw against rivals Celtic in a Scottish Premiership derby at Celtic Park on Sunday.

It was the Bhoys, who took a deserved lead in the 21st minute when Portuguese international Jota sliced home from close range before the 25-year-old Sakala rescued a vital point for the Gers with a great finish in the 67th minute.

Heading into the fixture, Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst had lost both of his first two Old Firm derbies in the league as a manager. The Gers had only lost two of their previous 10 league games against Celtic under former boss Steven Gerrard before this.

Van Bronckhorst handed three African players a start – Nigeria’s Joe Aribo starting in the middle of the pack, his Super Eagles’ compatriot Calvin Bassey manning the defence while Sakala was pushed forward assisted by Scott Arfield.

It was Sakala, who should have opened the scoring with only five minutes played when he intercepted Carl Starfelt’s pass and advanced down the right; however, the defender tracked him down quickly and did well to force him out for a goal-kick before he could pull the trigger.

However, 16 minutes later, the Bhoys got in front, Daizen Maeda ghosting in behind Rangers’ James Tavernier to meet a pass from Greg Taylor. Maeda then turned past Connor Goldson before delivering a cross to the far post, where Jota arrived to tap it home past goalkeeper Allan McGregor.

The first half saw Aribo well-marked and he could not threaten or create any meaningful chance, and it was the same case for his compatriot Bassey, who twice gave away the ball that could have helped Celtic to stretch their lead.

On resumption, Rangers started the strongest side and they had a corner in the 48th minute taken by Steven Davis, and from the delivery, the ball fell to Sakala, who swung in a cross that found Goldsonnn, but his one-time effort whizzed over the bar.

Aribo’s best chance in the game came in the 54th minute when Kent drifted inside and cut across the edge of the box, before finding Borna Barisic in space. The right-back then crossed for the Super Eagle, but a nick from Cameron Carter-Vickers took the ball out for another corner.

It was Aribo’s last contribution as he was withdrawn for Scott Wright in the 63rd minute while the Bhoys benched Matt O’Riley for Nir Bitton. Four minutes after coming on, Wright was involved in Rangers' equaliser.

He combined well with Arfield and set up Sakala, who returned the ball to Kent, and the latter played through the Chipolopolo star, who without hesitation smashed a low finish beyond Joe Hart.

It was Sakala’s eighth goal of the season since joining from KV Oostende on March 4, 2021.

Meanwhile, Aribo, who has managed seven top-flight goals in this campaign, last scored on April 11 against Hibernian in a 2-1 victory. However, his opening goal of the campaign came in the 3-0 victory against St. Johnstone on August 12.

The draw saw Celtic maintain their top spot with 86 points from 35 matches, six more than second-placed Rangers.