Football: Rangers a step nearer title

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The Independent Online
Rangers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Aberdeen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

THE destiny of the Premier Division championship seems secure with eight games remaining and the Rangers fans are already celebrating a fifth successive league flag after a win at Ibrox last night, which gives the Glasgow side a nine-point lead over second-placed Aberdeen.

Ian Ferguson's 65th-minute strike and a late header from Ally McCoist divided the teams and gave Rangers an important victory in the first leg of a prial of matches that will determine the success of their season, with cup ties against Hearts and Marseille to follow within the week.

Rangers came close midway through the first half of a passionate game played in cup-tie spirit, the McCoist-Mark Hateley combination setting up McCoist for a powerful 25- yard shot, which Theo Snelders pushed away. From the corner a Richard Gough header was deflected wide.

Andy Goram, the Rangers goalkeeper, saved a Scott Booth shot with his legs and Duncan Shearer contrived to head an Alex McLeish high ball across goal from two yards.

The action continued unabated with both sides squandering chances. McCoist, with 51 goals to his credit this season, delayed his shot when played clear by John Brown after 53 minutes, allowing Gary Smith the time to execute a covering tackle.

After 65 minutes Rangers took the lead with as good a goal as Ibrox has seen this season. Stuart McCall made ground with a determined run before passing to Hateley, his lay-off was met by Ferguson and a powerful 25-yard shot screamed past Snelders.

With two minutes remaining McCoist headed a reassuring second goal for Rangers from a Hateley head-flick.

Rangers: Goram; McCall, D Robertson, Gough, McPherson, Brown, Steven, Ferguson, McCoist, Hateley, Huistra (Mikhailichenko, 78; Murray, 89).

Aberdeen: Snelders; Aitken, Smith, Kane, McLeish, McKimmie, Richardson (Ten Caat, 80), Mason (Roddie, 88), Booth, Shearer, Paatelainen.

Referee: J Timmons (Kilwinning).