Football: Rangers revel in Charbonnier glow

Hibernian 0 Rangers 1 Johansson 69 Attendance:15,585
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The Independent Online
LIONEL CHARBONNIER and Franck Sauzee may embody the liberty and fraternity their French passports bear, but the latter was denied egalite yesterday by a truly wonderful show of goalkeeping from Charbonnier, who repelled every trick in the Hibernian idol's repertoire to give Rangers a hard-won success.

The Scottish Premier League leaders were on their knees at the end of this, a side-effect of their midweek in Parma, and it took Jonatan Johansson's debatable 69th-minute goal and Charbonnier's string of saves from Sauzee's free-kicks to preserve their perfect record in the Scottish Premier League.

The bad blood which has existed between these two sets of supporters - a throwback to the "casuals" era in the 1980s - spilled over on the cramped streets around Easter Road with an ugly skirmish between rival groups, in which bottles and bricks were thrown.

Inside the ground, the atmosphere was more orderly, but no less partisan. It did little to distract the foreign recruits though, when Sauzee, the former Marseille star, controlled a Russell Latapy corner, cleverly directed to the edge of the box, and conjured up a thunderous right-foot drive. But it was beaten away by Charbonnier with equal aplomb.

Sauzee's influence has seen Hibs improve the quality of their passing game, yet there is little to compare with Rangers' current precision, and Neil McCann would have profited from an inventive ball from Michael Mols had the defender Michael Renwick not got in a foot to deprive the Scotland winger at the expense of a corner.

Tony Vidmar then peppered Hibs' goal before the game moved into an unrestrained period of physical aggression, with Lorenzo Amoruso booked for steamrollering Dirk Lehmann from behind, and Shaun Dennis for a similarly brutish challenge on McCann.

Rangers were gradually applying the pressure, with Andrei Kanchelskis's 28th-minute footwork deserving a better finish. No such accusation could be levelled at McCann, four minutes before the interval, producing a glancing header that was bound for the bottom corner until Ole Gottskalksson, Hibs' goalkeeper, sprang to his left to turn the ball wide.

That, however, was nothing compared to the fright Charbonnier received in first-half stoppage time. Again Sauzee was his tormentor, with a curling free-kick over the wall which the Rangers keeper could only palm into the path of Dennis, who somehow contrived to hit the crossbar instead of the gaping net.

The second half, in comparison, was a crushing disappointment, not that the crowd seemed to notice. Easter Road's decibel level was cranked up well beyond the one o'clock gun across the city at Edinburgh Castle.

Yet, with both sets of players trampling on every blade of grass, and each other, to carve out or deny space - underlined by the bad foul on Adamczuk which brought the Hibs defender Derek Collins a caution - there were precious few goal opportunities.

Johansson, who had replaced the anonymous Kanchelskis at half-time, squandered the chance which came his way on the hour after an incisive counter-attack and accurate McCann cross had picked him out at the back post.

He showed no such profligacy eight minutes later, when he galloped on to Mols' pass from the midfield and raced in on Gottskalksson before slipping his shot underneath the goalkeeper to give Rangers the win.