Football: Larsson is the saviour for Celtic

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The Independent Online
Rangers 2 Celtic 2

IN THE end the gap stayed at 10 points but not for the want of trying. As the Premier League takes a three-week break the players of the two biggest clubs signed off with a match to remember at Ibrox Park yesterday.

There were four goals and numerous chances but no winner, the result being one which will suit Rangers more than Celtic.

The situation before the game was a repeat of earlier in the season with Celtic trailing their rivals by 10 points. Celtic then had shown all the desire to win 5-1.

The home side proved more alert from the start and with four minutes on the clock Paul Lambert was forced to clear off the line from Lorenzo Amoruso's header at a corner. Jonathan Gould, the Celtic goalkeeper, reacted well five minutes later to push away a powerful Rod Wallace shot which ended a sweeping three-man move and Rangers continued to dominate.

With Rangers closing down quickly, the Celtic midfield had little space in which to operate but Vidar Riseth found himself in good position in the 12th minute although he screwed his volley wide.

That was a temporary reprieve for the Celtic defence with Rangers' next chance falling to Wallace whose powerful run gave him a sight at goal but his shot finished six yards wide.

Celtic came into the game in dramatic fashion when first a deep cross from Stephane Mahe came back off the bar and then Alan Stubbs put them ahead. A free-kick fell to Lubomir Moravcik, who laid the ball into the path of the defender, whose curling shot found the far corner of the net.

Celtic's joy lasted for just six minutes. Neil McCann sent in a high ball which found the head of the recalled striker Gabriel Amato, whose powerful header gave Gould no chance.

Both sides went for a victory that would be all important with the game swinging from end-to-end. Larsson uncharacteristically blasted the ball over from six yards two minutes after the re-start and in the 50th minute his low glide brought out a good save from Stefan Klos.

In the 55th minute Celtic's penalty claims were brushed aside when Mahe went down in the penalty area after a challenge by Andrei Kanchelskis. Within three minutes Rangers were ahead.

Gabriel Amato showed strength and a determination to force his way past three challenges at the by-line and when the ball came into the six-yard box, Wallace hooked it in.

Celtic replied in the 66th minute. Moravcik sent a shot off the underside of the bar and from the rebound Larsson headed home.

Celtic almost took the lead again in the 72nd minute when Stubbs headed against the cross bar from a corner.

Goals: Stubbs (38) 0-1; Amato (45) 1-1; Wallace (58) 2-1; Larsson (66) 2-2

Rangers (4-4-2: Klos; Porrini, Hendry, Amoruso, Vidmar; Kanchelskis (Albertz, 60), B Ferguson, Van Bronckhorst, McCann (Johansson, 73); Amato, Wallace. Substitutes not used: Wilson, Miller, Brown (gk).

Celtic (4-4-2): Gould; Mjallby, Stubbs, Boyd, Mahe; Riseth, McNamara, Lambert, O'Donnell; Moravcik, Larsson. Substitutes not used: Brattbakk, Annoni, McBride, Burchill, Warner (gk).

Referee: J McCluskey (Stewarton).

Bookings: Rangers: Porrini, Hendry, Ferguson, Van Bronckhorst. Celtic: Mahe, Stubbs, Lambert.

Man of the match: Van Bronckhorst

Attendance: 50,059.