Advocaat leaving party spoiled by Hibernian

Rangers 1 Hibernian 1
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The Independent Football

Alex McLeish had done his job too well. The team he left behind inflicted a costly draw on the one he is inheriting last night, to draw the curtain down on Dick Advocaat's reign in the certainty that the Scottish Premier League title is already Celtic's for the keeping.

Rangers' new manager watched powerless in the stand as the Hibernian team he took for training on Tuesday wrecked the farewell of the man he is replacing at Ibrox.

Though Rangers edged a point closer to their Old Firm rivals, they have played a game more. Now that Advocaat has gone, McLeish has a lot of catching up to do.

Sub-zero temperatures appeared to have kept some of the normal full house of 50,000 away. Advocaat quietly slipping upstairs just at the point Celtic threaten to disappear over the horizon with another title hardly generated a party spirit, regardless of the Little General's achievements in his first two seasons in Govan.

The chill in the air, however, was nothing in comparison to the hostile reaction served up by the visiting support from Edinburgh. McLeish, sitting in the Rangers' directors box, was their public enemy No 1 after his rapid defection on Tuesday and they let him know it.

Had Tore Andre Flo found the target after five minutes, then perhaps Ibrox might have let its hair down a little on Advocaat's last stand. However, the Norwegian striker failed to finish off the fine lay-off from Ronald de Boer and Hibernian gradually took command.

The smooth passing ­ something McLeish had preached over the last few seasons ­ came effortlessly. Tom McManus was released when Grant Brebner threaded a ball through to him, but Stefan Klos beat out the young striker's shot.

Craig Moore was forced to abruptly halt McManus's run soon after with a cynical foul, but Hibernian took revenge in the 22nd minute when Francisco Luna put them in front. The Spaniard stole in to meet David Zitelli's deep cross and buried a header high past Klos.

The Hibernian fans were gleeful. The taunts flowed in McLeish's direction and the failure of Flo in the 38th minute to find a way past Nick Colgan after shrugging off Ian Murray, only added to the gloom.

Flo's punishment was to be left inside at half-time. The £12m signing from Chelsea ­ Advocaat's costliest buy ­ was denied an invite to his leaving party, but Rangers picked up in the Norwegian's absence.

His replacement, Neil McCann, had a hand in the equaliser in the 57th minute, supplying Shota Arveladze, who in turn picked out Fernando Ricksen arriving like a train. The Dutch international's shot from the edge of the box took a wicked deflection off poor Hibs defender Paul Fenwick and cruelly beat Colgan.

Rangers suddenly became gung-ho. Arthur Numan came close twice, with Colgan denying the Dutchman with a stunning block, before Gary Smith did the same to McCann.

Rangers fans were not hanging around to bid Advocaat farewell. They clogged the aisles long before the end, with the Hibs fans singing "cheerio, cheerio!" Perhaps, they were doing it for Advocaat instead.

Rangers (3-5-2): Klos; Vidmar, Moore, Wilson (Hughes, h-t); Ross, Ricksen, Latapy (Caniggia, 71), De Boer, Numan; Flo (McCann, h-t), Arveladze. Substitutes not used: Christiansen (gk), Lovenkrands.

Hibernian (4-4-2): Colgan; Orman, Smith, Fenwick, Murray; Brebner, Jack, O'Neil, Zitelli (Arpinon, 87); Luna (Hutardo, 71), McManus (De La Cruz, 67). Substitutes not used: Caig (gk), Townsley.

Referee: J Rowbotham.

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