AN Old Firm game which was billed beforehand as a title decider by many in Scottish football ended up raising as many questions as it answered.

It was hard to say whether the 3-3 draw between the Glasgow rivals at Ibrox yesterday was a better result for Rangers or for Celtic following the 90 exhilarating, incident-packed, captivating minutes.

The home team, who trailed 2-0 at half-time and 3-2 in injury-time, can be proud of the way they fought back to earn a draw and a point which gives them the chance to move two points clear of their city rivals at the top of the cinch Premiership table on Wednesday night.

Yet, the visitors can also be satisfied with how they acquitted themselves in an intimidating arena. They will be quietly confident they can prevail against their age-old adversaries when they have 60,000 or their fans cheering them on at Parkhead following the split.

Rabbi Matondo curled in an equaliser in the third minute of added-on time and honours were even when John Beaton brought an end to the madness. They will not be level come the final game in May. But who will come out on top remains anyone’s guess. 

The Herald: Rangers manager Philippe Clement congratulates Rabbi Matondo on his injury-time equaliser againstHere are five talking points from a classic derby encounter.

Fast start

The noise generated by the 50,000 Rangers supporters who had shoehorned in to Ibrox hoping to see their heroes win was deafening before kick-off.

But the stadium fell silent after just 21 seconds when the visitors took the lead with a bizarre goal.

READ MOREPhilippe Clement insists Rangers have more cause to complain about VAR

James Tavernier failed to spot that Daizen Maeda was bearing down on him inside his own penalty box. His attempted clearance struck the shin of his opponent and spun beyond Jack Butland.

It was one of the quickest goals in Old Firm history – but not the quickest.

Chris Sutton, who was doing the co-commentary for host broadcaster Sky Sports and was looking on from the gantry in the main stand, broke the deadlock after just 19 seconds in a league game at Ibrox in the December of 2002.  

Tavernier has, for all his strengths going forward, always been prone to a lapse in concentration at the back. It was another in a long line of costly errors. He did not buck his ideas up any either.

He was dispossessed by Maeda just outside his area midway through the first-half and was fortunate that Butland tipped a Matt O’Riley header over his crossbar from the resulting attack.  

The Rangers captain, though, showed great character when he netted a second-half penalty kick to get his side’s comeback underway and take his tally for the 2023/24 campaign to 23.

Midfield maestros

Callum McGregor returned to the Celtic squad after recovering from an achilles injury – but he had not played competitively since the end of February and left on the substitutes bench by Rodgers.

His omission meant that it was Japanese internationalist Tomoki Iwata who slotted into the midfield alongside his countryman Reo Hatate and O’Riley.

The Parkhead skipper had been the outstanding player in the first two derbies of the season. Would the visitors cope without their talismanic leader in Govan?

Celtic took complete control in that crucial area of the park early on and did not relinquish it until well into the second half. Iwata, Hatate and O’Riley dovetailed beautifully. Mohamed Diomande, making his debut in the fixture, struggled badly, John Lundstram was often posted missing and Tom Lawrence was anonymous.  

McGregor entered the fray in the 65th minute when he replaced Hatate. But he was not his normal self. He gave the ball away needlessly before the late Abdallah Sima goal that made it 2-2 and struggled to impose himself.

Still, Brendan Rodgers was satisfied with how Celtic performed in the crucial area and predicted more is to come from them during the run-in.   

READ MORERabbi Matondo on embracing pre-match Kevin De Bruyne challenge

“Absolutely outstanding,” he said. “The midfield’s the jungle, that’s where it’s won. And all three played together really well. Tomo was excellent, he won the ball, passed it simple. Matty looked a threat. Reo elevates the team to the next level with his composure and his touch and play. These players will get fitter over these next coming weeks.

Rangers heart

This was the proverbial game of two halves for Rangers. They were abysmal in the opening 45 minutes and could consider themselves fortunate to only be 2-0 behind. But they were the better team after half-time. They continued fighting even after Adam Idah had put Celtic 3-2 in front at the death.

Should their manager Philippe Clement be alarmed at how his charges started or encouraged by how they finished? He will have to make sure there is no repeat of their first-half display in their remaining seven league matches. Beginning in their game in hand against Dundee at Dens Park in midweek.  

The Herald: Celtic left back Greg Taylor, left, congratulates his team mate Matt O'Riley after the playmaker'sPetulant Silva

Wolves loanee Silva has done well for Rangers since arriving on loan during the January transfer window despite being played out of position on the left of the front three due to injuries in recent weeks.

He won his team a penalty when he went to ground following the slightest of touches from Alistair Johnston in the second half and Sutton branded him "a gold medal diver" in typical antagonistic fashion

The Portuguese player, who rolled about on the turf as if he had been hooked by Tyson Fury in the first half following another Johnston flashhpoint, would be well advised to focus on football in the weeks ahead. He is an excellent player who has no need to indulge in such nonsense.  

Ref watch

John Beaton has had far quieter afternoons at the office.

Beaton was urged to watch a replay of a Nicolas Kuhn corner by his VAR colleague Nick Walsh in the first-half and correctly pointed to the spot after ruling that Connor Goldson handled the ball. O’Riley converted.

He showed Silva a yellow for simulation following the Johnston challenge in the second. But he reversed that decision and gave the hosts a penalty after viewing his pitchside monitor. It was, no doubt about it, a soft award. But contact had been made.

The referee then chalked off a Cyriel Dessers goal that had appeared to level the encounter for a foul by Lawrence on Iwata in the build-up. Both sets of supporters had their complaints after full-time. VAR, though, got all the major calls correct.