Football: Rangers leaving the rest trailing

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The Independent Online
LEAGUE DOMINATION is becoming fashionable in Scotland. Each of the divisions can boast leaders who have opened up a sizeable gap over those below them and, while that means celebratory weekends for some supporters, interest for the rest of us will inevitably turn to relegation in the near future.

Rangers take prize billing in the Premier League and are likely to be crowned champions long before the last game of the season. Lorenzo Amoruso, the Rangers captain, voiced the feelings of many when he suggested his side is within touching distance of the ultimate prize. Speaking after Saturday's 4-2 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie which gave Rangers a nine- point advantage over Kilmarnock, the Italian defender said: "I would say that four more wins like this and you can consider the league closed."

True to their nature Aberdeen raised their game for the visit of Rangers and although reduced to 10 men the Glasgow side came through the test without playing at their best.

And that is the real worry for Scottish football because Rangers are so far ahead without producing anything like scintillating form. Sadly, there remains a real lack of competition in the Scottish game.

Yesterday afternoon, Harold Brattbakk marked his first start for nearly three months by scoring a hat-trick as Celtic disposed of St Johnstone 5-0.

The Norwegian opened proceedings as Celtic raced to a 3-0 half-time lead, Lubomir Moravcik and Henrik Larsson scoring the next two. It was a shot from Brattbakk that led to the third: goalkeeper Alan Main got a hand to his shot and then managed to turn away the rebound from Phil O'Donnell. The ball broke to Moravcik, whose effort fell to Brattbakk. He nodded it across the face of the goal to Larsson, who made no mistake with a diving header.

Celtic moved 4-0 ahead after 76 minutes, Brattbakk linking up with Larsson and timing his run to perfection before steering the ball beyond Main. He completed his hat-trick two minutes later with a tap-in after Larsson had set him up.

The First Division title race is losing much excitement, except for fans of Hibernian, who are 14 points ahead of Falkirk. The latest victory, their 10th in succession, saw them win 4-1 at third-placed Airdrie.

The Airdrie chairman, Campbell Craig, is adamant they will not go out of business. A provisional liquidator has been appointed, but Craig insisted: "The club is in a strong financial state." He said a cheque for the outstanding amount to settle an account would be paid today.