Football: Spirited Celtic seize initiative to end Rangers' unbeaten run

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Rangers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

A STUNNING Celtic performance full of purpose and conviction consigned Rangers to their first defeat in 45 games in a match full of passion and commitment.

Liam Brady's side, always confident and composed, deserved their win against their oldest rivals who were somewhat subdued. Perhaps the punishing midweek European Champions' League game against Bruges had taken its toll, but their traditional fighting spirit and determination only surfaced when it was too late.

Celtic, eager and alert, provided the more studied and methodical build-ups and only some astonishing misses prevented Rangers suffering a defeat of embarrassing proportions.

Celtic signalled their intentions early on with a series of penetrating moves which tested Rangers' resolve. And as the game progressed there seemed little doubt that it was to be their day as Paul McStay and John Collins supplied the enterprise and invention.

Even Ally McCoist, a 31st minute substitute for the injured Scott Nisbet, rarely looked like breaching the well-organised Celtic rearguard. It is the first season for 10 years that McCoist has failed to score in an Old Firm match.

Andy Payton had missed two outstanding chances before Collins recorded another historical milestone when he opened Celtic's account with their 300th goal in league games against Rangers. His long-range drive after 37 minutes gave Andy Goram no chance and it was just reward for the home side's pressure.

Rangers' best efforts in the first half came from Mark Hateley and Stuart McCall who forced excellent saves from Pat Bonner. Bonner denied them again after the restart when he instinctively blocked a Trevor Steven effort with his legs.

Payton atoned for his earlier misses when he put Celtic 2-0 ahead after 52 minutes. The Rangers defence hesitated at a corner and the English-born centre-forward pounced to score in a crowded penalty box.

Hateley gave Rangers some hope with a decisive strike after 84 minutes and he almost grabbed a dramatic equaliser with another shot moments from time. However, that would have been rough justice for Celtic.

Celtic: P Bonner; T Boyd, D Wdowczyk, P Grant, M McNally, M Galloway, S Slater, P McStay, F McAvennie, A Payton, J Collins. Subs not used: S Fulton, G Gillespie. Manager: L Brady.

Rangers: A Goram; S Nisbet (A McCoist, 31 min), D Robertson, N Murray, D McPherson, J Brown, T Steven, D Hagen, S McCall, M Hateley, I Durrant (A Mikhailichenko, 66 min). Manager: W Smith.

Referee: D Hope (Erskine).

Goals: Collins (1-0, 37 min); Payton (2-0, 52 min); Hateley (2-1, 84 min).