Albertz fires last-kick clincher

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The Independent Football

Rangers moved four points clear of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premier League last night thanks to a dramatic late winner from Jorg Albertz. The German midfielder scored with the last kick of the game, wrong-footing goalkeeper Antti Niemi after Barry Ferguson's shot had been partially cleared.

Rangers moved four points clear of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premier League last night thanks to a dramatic late winner from Jorg Albertz. The German midfielder scored with the last kick of the game, wrong-footing goalkeeper Antti Niemi after Barry Ferguson's shot had been partially cleared.

Rangers were earlier left with a feeling of frustration as Hearts, with only one win in their last 10 games, looked as though they had come for a draw.

The game marked the 100th anniversary of Ibrox Stadium and there was a carnival atmosphere but the bumper crowd saw little in the first half to cheer them. Antti Niemi, making only his second appearance in goal for Hearts, was called into action after just nine minutes when he held a 25-yard shot from Albertz. Two minutes later, Albertz hit a free-kick, but it went into the wall.

The Rangers midfielder Andrei Kanchelskis then fired over the bar. Billy Dodds sent a header wide and Rod Wallace hooked his effort high as Hearts were forced to back-pedal.

But Rangers, playing without any conviction, almost went behind in the 35th minute. McSwegan cut the ball inside and Stephane Adam's shot was turned away by the Rangers' keeper Lionel Charbonier.

The match settled into a familiar pattern in the second half with the home side continuing to push forward. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's corner from the left was touched on by Arthur Numan, but Dodds was crowded out. Kanchelskis shot from the edge of the area only to see his effort turned away by Niemi.

Hearts had another scare two minutes later when a fierce shot from Amoruso following a short free-kick by Van Bronckhorst whistled past the post.

However, the visitors looked dangerous on the counter-attack, and Gordan Petric ghosted into the box to get on the end of a free-kick from Locke. Luckily for Rangers, Charbonnier saved cleanly. Charbonnier was left stranded in the 77th minute when he was beaten by Petric's header, only for his header to rattle the bar. But Albertz sealed the points for Rangers with the final kick of the match after Barry Ferguson's effort had been partially blocked.

Rangers: Charbonnier; Numan, Vidmar (McCann, h-t), Moore, Amoruso, Albertz, Van Bronckhorst, B Ferguson, Kanchelskis, Dodds, Wallace. Substitutes: Nicholson, Durie, I Ferguson, Myhre.

Hearts: Niemi; Naysmith, Pressley, Petric, Simpson, Murray, Locke, Leclercq, Cameron, Adam, McSwegan. Substitutes: Rousset, Fulton, Kirk, Severin, Milne.

Referee: S Dougal (Scotland).

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