Football; Rangers edge out title rivals

Rangers 2 Celtic 0
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The Independent Online
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL might have labelled it the beginning of the end. The race for the League title has four games to run and while this result in itself will not take Rangers to a 10th successive League flag they again demonstrated the drive and determination that might take them to historic heights.

Two goals of sublime quality gave Rangers victory and took them ahead of Celtic on goal difference but with visits to Aberdeen and Hearts on the immediate agenda Rangers know there's still a lot of football to be played this season.

Walter Smith's men certainly had a solidity about them that has been missing for most of the season due in large part to the form of Lorenzo Amoruso, the Italian defender who made his first-team debut in last week's cup tie.

The spirit of nine league championships has returned to the club and they left Celtic in their wake for the second successive Sunday.

The resultant knock-on effect to moral in both camps will become apparent over the next few weeks but the Rangers supporters left Ibrox with a conviction that their side now has the upper hand.

While relegation demands could see Hibernian and Motherwell take points off Celtic at home, Hearts will be just as keen to damage Rangers' ambitions while keeping themselves in the title race.

Rangers' victory was earned through guts and determination while Celtic appeared all too neatly to accept their fate on a day when they might have moved six points clear. They lost the services of Darren Jackson through injury after 23 minutes and two minutes later they fell behind.

A free-kick was headed out of the Celtic penalty area to the waiting Jonas Thern whose volley into the top corner of the net was the kind of quality strike fit to grace any occasion and possibly it will go down as one of the best goals the Swede will ever score.

Celtic attempted to take the game to Rangers but were unable to make many inroads and while Paul Lambert was given three opportunities to shoot from around 25 yards, each effort was pulled wide of a post.

Andy Goram, the Rangers goalkeeper who had defied Celtic the previous week, was given little to do this time but he reacted well to push over an Alan Stubbs header five minutes after the restart. In the 62nd minute Celtic must have felt they would equalise when Lambert embarked on a mazy run but his final shot flashed across the goal.

It was a miss Celtic were to pay for as four minutes later Jorge Albertz scored a second goal for the home side. Collecting the ball on the halfway line, he strode towards the Celtic defence, sidestepped a tackle and drove a tremendous shot into the net. It was a carbon copy of the goal he had scored at Celtic Park seven days before and as then it proved a decisive strike and served to sap the confidence from Celtic.

And yet the scoreline might well have been greater as Rangers contrived to miss several guilt-edged chances with Ally McCoist the worst offender. He was desperate to score the one goal that would give him the record for goals in Old Firm games, but twice when played through by Albertz the veteran goalscorer missed his opportunity by uncharacteristically shooting wide. At the death, Rino Gattuso saw a shot cleared off the line by Enrico Annoni.

Goals: Thern (25) 1-0; Albertz (66) 2-0.

Rangers (4-3-3): Goram; Bjorklund, Gough, Amoruso, Cleland; Thern, McCall, Albertz; Laudrup, Durie (Gattuso, 70), McCoist.

Celtic (4-3-3): Gould; Boyd, Reiper, Stubbs, Annoni; Burley, Lambert, O'Donnell; Donnelly, Jackson (Brattbakk, 23), Larsson.

Referee: H Dallas (Motherwell).

Bookings: Rangers: Amorouso, Durie, Bjorklund, Cleland. Celtic: Annoni, Larsson, O'Donnell.

Man of the match: Albertz.

Attendance: 50,042.

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