Football: Negri seeks perfect 10

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The Independent Online
A New year approaches but with the same old name on top of the Scottish Premier Division. And the manner of Rangers' 4-1 success over Dundee United at Ibrox yesterday had all the usual ominous signs for any rivals hoping to stop them winning their 10th consecutive title.

One behind after 28 minutes when Kjell Olafsson gave United the lead, Rangers effortlessly switched up a gear and by the 42nd minute a Brian Laudrup free-kick had levelled it. A minute later they were 2-1 up after Alec Cleland headed home a Laudrup cross for his second goal of the season.

The second half was left to Marco Negri to take his tally for the campaign to 33. Negri left it late to get off the mark, heading in his first in only the 81st minute, and a penalty in the final seconds gave the Italian his second.

After the Rangers manager, Walter Smith, responding to speculation that his captain, Richard Gough, might be on his way back to Kansas City Wizzards, said: "Richard has been reported as saying he won't hang around if the new manager doesn't want him. But the new manager won't be in place until next season and Gough will be here until then at least."

Rangers' run to the record-breaking championship will not be completely straightforward as Hearts showed when leapfrogging Celtic into second place, two points behind the leaders, with a 3-1 win at Dunfermline. Jim Hamilton gave Hearts an early lead in the seventh minute before Dunfermline equalised with a Dave Bingham penalty in the 16th minute. But Hearts were helped by an own goal by the home goalkeeper, Ian Westwater, who palmed the ball into his own net.

The game looked all over for Dunfermline when they were reduced to 10 men in the 52nd minute as Andy Smith was sent off. But Dunfermline then played their best football and put a solid Hearts defence under pressure for long periods without managing to find the net. The Italian Stefano Salvatori added a third for Hearts to make sure of the points.

At the other end of the table Aberdeen, who put most of their players up for sale earlier in the week, won 3-0 over Motherwell, with two goals from Eoin Jess and one from Dean Windass, to move off the bottom spot.

That left the way open for Hibernian to claim last place after their 14th game without a win. Paul Wright scored for Kilmarnock just before half-time to condemn Hibernian, who now have to face up to the might of Hearts in the New Year's Day derby.

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