Football: Old dog McCoist up to his old tricks

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The Independent Online
Celtic 0 Rangers 1

Ally McCoist again demonstrated his ability to make the extraordinary appear commonplace. The Rangers striker who came off the bench to score the winner for Scotland against Greece last month has made a career out of being in the right place at the right time and with tension rising in this, the first Old Firm match of the season, he provided the finishing touch for a Rangers victory which will be well remembered by their supporters.

If Celtic felt aggrieved at losing a Coca-Cola Cup quarter-final they dominated, the evening once again proved that no defence is safe when McCoist is around.

For most of the game he had chased shadows or watched team-mates fire in shots, but two telling contributions bore his hallmark.

He forced Gordon Marshall to save well in the first half and was well placed at the far post to direct a Paul Gascoigne cross past the Celtic goalkeeper with 15 minutes remaining.

The 32-year-old was thought by many to be past his best after missing almost two years through injury, but the joker in Rangers' pack had the last laugh.

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, may have spent pounds 10m in summer signings, but the old dog showed just one of his tricks on the night to upstage Gascoigne, Petric, Salenko and Wright.

The two people he could not quite better were Paul McStay, the Celtic captain, and his own goalkeeper, Andy Goram.

The game hinged around the performance of these two with McStay producing a virtuoso performance in only his second game back from injury.

He was denied by Goram on two occasions, and both saves were from the top drawer. Goram's first involvement was in the 15th minute when he saved well from Andreas Thom and five minutes later he fingertipped away a McStay shot.

At the start of the second half he stood between Celtic and the lead, saving superbly at the top corner as a Collins free-kick seemed destined to result in the opening goal.

His piece de resistance was reserved for the 85th minute when a spellbinding leap produced a magnificent save from McStay.

Rangers elected to play Gascoigne in a withdrawn role. His positioning, directly in front of the back three, restricted the chance of potential flashpoints with the Celtic midfield although there were occasions, notably when he appeared to swing an elbow at McStay, when he benefited from leniency by the referee.

He displayed enough to suggest he will be able to fit the Rangers pattern although, if the best is to be seen from the Englishman, his role might have to be changed to allow him to impress his authority on a game.

Celtic (4-4-2): Marshall; Vata, Boyd, Hughes, McKinlay; Donnelly, Grant, McStay, Collins; Walker (Van Hooijdonk, 60), Thom (McLaughlin, 71). Substitute not used: Bonner (gk).

Rangers (3-5-2): Goram; Gough, McLaren, Petric; Wright, Gascoigne, Miller, Laudrup, Robertson (Cleland, 60); McCoist, Salenko (Durie, 78). Substitute not used: Thomson (gk).

Referee: J McLuskey (Stewarton).