Football: Albertz strikes a Killie blow

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The Independent Online
Rangers 1

Albertz 56

Kilmarnock 0

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 47,169

IF ONLY everything was as reliable as a German. Jorg Albertz rose above the morass of mediocrity of his Rangers team-mates to restore some equi- librium after a difficult week.

Three of Dick Advocaat's players failed miserably from 12 yards in their midweek penalty shoot-out demise at Borussia Dortmund, but the German managed to find the net from twice that distance, as he borrowed the poise of his countrymen to gain three hard-earned points with his ninth goal of the season.

The sting of European exit in midweek was perhaps uppermost in everyone's mind around Ibrox, but gnawing at Rangers' psyche was the fact that Uefa Cup elimination against Borussia Dortmund represented a third successive defeat for Advocaat's side.

However, when it comes to unfulfilled ambitions, Kilmarnock had been there, done it and been forced to wear the hairshirt. Exactly a year ago these two met on this ground, grappling for the Scottish Premier League leadership. The Uefa Cup disappeared from their schedule months ago and relegation is now the ever-present topic.

Yet the confidence had not completely evaporated, as Christophe Cocard underlined with an ambitious long-range drive which flew just over the bar. Rangers, on the other hand, were tentatively trying to flush the nightmare of Dortmund out of their system. Rod Wallace had a glorious opportunity to exorcise the demons in the 15th minute, thanks to a sublime pass from Neil McCann, which split Kilmarnock's central defenders, Frederic Dindeleux and Jim Lauchlan. Wallace, with only the goalkeeper, Colin Meldrum, to beat, stabbed his shot wide from the edge of the box.

Billy Dodds is normally brimful of confidence, but the Scotland striker, making his debut after last week's pounds 1.2m move from Dundee United, squandered a glorious chance to mark the occasion with a goal. McCann's pace and skill provided the low whipped cross, but Dodds, despite getting in front of Dindeleux, poked his shot over the bar.

Kilmarnock sensed the anxiety and turned the screw on Rangers in the 15 minutes before half-time, with Cocard at the core of everything. The Frenchman's cutback on the half-hour prompted Ian Durrant to shoot. It was half-blocked by Lorenzo Amoruso, whose embarrassment at allowing Andy Smith to pounce on the loose ball was spared only by the goalkeeper, Thomas Myhre, who parried the ball against the post. The Norwegian rescued Rangers again eight minutes later, after Mitchell had burst clear.

The frustration scarcely subsided in the second-half, as Kilmarnock's successful offside trap snared Rangers on four occasions, provoking jeers from the Ibrox stands.

It took Albertz to break the resistance. There was doubt surrounding free-kick award which presented the midfielder with a chance to summon up another fearsome blow after the ball was touched into his path by Claudio Reyna.

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