THERE was a mixture of delight and despair for the champions in a dramatic six-goal stalemate at Ibrox this afternoon.

Celtic saw a stoppage-time strike from Rabbi Matondo snatch away victory in a frantic finish to a match in which the visitors had led twice.

Goals from Daizen Maeda and Matt O’Riley, with a penalty-kick, had Brendan Rodgers’ men 2-0 ahead at the interval, but they allowed their opponents back into the contest after the turnaround and forfeited two points that would surely have propelled them towards the title.

Ten minutes into the second-half, James Tavernier pulled one back with a penalty-kick after an intervention from VAR and and it remained that way until Abdallah Sima levelled with a deflection off Callum McGregor in the 86th minute.

However, the captain, who had gifted possession to the home side in the build-up to the goal, played a part in the Parkhead men’s reply.

Just over a minute later, the Hoops midfielder picked out fellow-substitute Paulo Bernardo on the left.

IN WITH A SHOUT…Brendan Rodgers applauds Celtic’s second goal while substitute James Forrest cannot contain his delight.

The Portuguese playmaker drove forward and picked out Adam Idah with a neat pass. The Republic of Ireland international, who had replaced Kyogo Furuhashi, turned inside John Souttar and Dujan Sterling to fire a low drive past the flummoxed Jack Butland.

That looked like being the goal to get the job done, but three minutes into the eight minutes of added-on time, some atrocious defending from Yang Hyun-jun allowed Motondo to come in from the left onto his strong right foot.

As expected, the winger thundered in a drive that swept high past the helpless Joe Hart. He really should have been denied that goalscoring opportunity by the South Korean who had come on for Nicolas Kuhn in the 65th minute.

Celtic, with a home derby still to come, may accept the point, but they will know it could – and should – have so easily have been three.

The hosts took the kick-off, but, remarkably, found themselves a goal behind after exactly 21 SECONDS!

It was a lightning-swift break that exposed James Tavernier when he was slow to react to a long ball downfield from Joe Hart.

No immediate danger threatened, but the determined Maeda refused to give up the chase and the Ibrox skipper paid a heavy price when he dallied in his clearance.

PICK IT OUT…Matt O’Riley dinks his penalty-kick down the centre of the goal as Jack Butland takes off to his left for Celtic’s second goal in the 3-3 draw.

The defender attempted to whip the ball to safety, but only succeeded in thumping his effort against the Japanese speedster and the ricochet zipped past the stranded Butland and into the far left-hand corner of the net.

The ground was bathed in silence as the Hoops attacker whooped with joy before his team-mates joined in the celebrations.

Celtic went for the jugular and three minutes later Reo Hatate sent a curler from 25 yards floating just wide.

Philippe Clement’s side were clearly rattled as the visitors took control, but there was a fright for the Hoops in the 24th minute when Connor Goldson was allowed far too much room in the box to get on the end of an inswinging right-wing corner-kick from Mohamed Diamande.

Thankfully, the centre-back didn’t make a solid connection and his effort from three yards flew waywardly off target.

Two minutes later, it was the Hoops’ turn to pass up a good opportunity when O’Riley found Maeda with a neat through pass. With the whole goal to aim at, the fleet-footed flanker rushed his shot and Butland was allowed to push the ball to safety.

Within a minute, the keeper was scrambling across his line as an attempt from Hatate whipped just wide of his right-hand upright.

Shortly afterwards, Butland denied O’Riley with an acrobatic tip over the bar from a netbound header.

In the 33rd minute, the champions were awarded a VAR-assisted penalty-kick when it was clear Goldson has used his right elbow to clear a right-wing cross from Nicolas Kuhn.

Referee John Beaton missed the offence, but Nick Walsh, the man in front of the multi-screens, instructed his colleague to review the incident.

Images proved conclusively that there was contact with an illegal part of the centre-back’s arm and there was no option but to point to the spot.

O’Riley was the calmest man in the vicinity as he stepped up to take the award and nonchalantly roll the ball past Butland who took off for his left.

The first-half came to a close in stoppage-time with a smart save from Hart preventing Fabio Silva clawing back a goal at a crucial stage.

Ten minutes into the second-half, Beaton booked Silva for diving in the box after yet another piece of simulation from the pathetic winger.

JOY BHOYS…Matt O’Riley and Nicolas Kuhn celebrate Celtic’s second goal.

However, the match official was told to have a second look on the monitor and there was surprise and dismay for the Hoops when the yellow card was scrapped and the referee awarded a penalty-kick after the challenge from Alistair Johnston.

Tavernier proved once again that partice makes perfect with a drive into the roof of Hart’s net.

There was high drama a couple of minutes later when the hosts believed they had drawn level after Cyriel Dessers, who came off second best in his duels with rock-solid Cameron Carter-Vickers, tucked a rebound behind Hart.

However, VAR highlighted a foul by Tom Lawrence on Tomoki Iwata in the build-up and the effort was quite correctly scrapped.

In the 65th minute, Rodgers made a double substitution when he took off the tiring Hatate and Kuhn and put on skipper McGregor and Yang.

Four minutes later, Idah joined the action with Kyogo being withdrawn

In the 82nd minute Paulo Bernardo replaced O’Riley, but Rodgers’ men were reeling five minutes later when McGregor, of all people, was wayward with a crossfield pass that set off a home attack.

Sterling sent a ball into the box, Scales headed clear, but the ball fell to Sima who thrashed an attempt at goal.

McGregor, attempting to atone for his mistake, tried to block the shot, but only succeeded getting a nick on the ball to leave Hart helpless.

Then came Idah’s instant response with Matondo sadly allowed the chance to thrash in the leveller as the clock ticked down.

It was a thrilling climax to a hard-fought encounter and, now the smoke has cleared, the champions are leading by a point, but their nearest challengers have a game in hand and travel to Dens Park on Wednesday for their match against Dundee.

It seems this race for the crown is destined to go all the way to the wire.

There may yet be some more twists and turns.

TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Scales, Taylor; Iwata, O’Riley (sub: Bernardo 82), Hatate (sub: McGregor 65); Kuhn (sub: Yang 65), Kyogo (sub: Idah 69) and Maeda.

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