Albertz inspires Rangers

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The Independent Online

Jörg Albertz and Billy Dodds are fast becoming a double act with a punchline for every occasion. Yet again, Rangers' two most reliable scorers ensured the Scottish champions maintained the unbeaten defence of their title.

Jörg Albertz and Billy Dodds are fast becoming a double act with a punchline for every occasion. Yet again, Rangers' two most reliable scorers ensured the Scottish champions maintained the unbeaten defence of their title.

St Mirren's resistance was such that Rangers were always looking over their shoulders at Love Street last night, even after Albertz had given his team a lead with a first half-penalty.

Dodds kept them at bay long enough with his seventh goal of the season and even though Jens Päslack's goal had Paisley in a ferment, Albertz, as always, had the last word with another fine free-kick. Welcome to life in top flight, St Mirren.

The gulf between the teams, some £30m in mere transfer fees alone, threatened to be underlined in the early stages as Rangers forced the newly promoted side to soak up a lot of pressure. Albertz twice pierced the St Mirren defence, forcing the goalkeeper Ludovic Roy to beat out his left-foot shot, but then missing the target moments later when through on his weaker right foot.

Yet, when the home side finally recovered their composure, their German striker Päslack connected with Ian Nicolson's cross in the 18th minute and sent a header just wide.

Mark Yardley had an even better chance for Saints from another Nicolson cross, but slipped in the act of shooting and Rangers made him pay for that sloppiness when they went ahead in the 27th minute.

Rod Wallace pursued Barry Ferguson's hopeful ball to the byline and did not appear to make contact with Paul Rudden's rash challenge as he fell to the ground. None the less, Albertz crashed in a left-foot penalty to soothe Rangers' worries.

Dodds ought to have doubled the lead just before half-time, but the excellent positioning of Roy, who parried the striker's shot wide, denied him a merited goal.

Another astonishingly miss by Yardley after half-time only served to announce to Rangers that it was their lucky evening and Dodds soon earned the reward of a goal which he richly deserved when the visitors went two ahead after 50 minutes.

Barry Ferguson chipped a ball into the box for Neil McCann to contest with Nicolson. The Rangers winger won it, and then cut a perfect pass back for Dodds to lash a left-foot shot high into the net past Roy.

St Mirren, though, refused to buckle. They forced their way back into the game in the 61st minute when their persistence paid off, with Jose Quitongo holding off Lorenzo Amoruso in the box and lobbing the ball over the defender, before substitute Steven McGarry's vicious volley was parried out by Klos. It fell to Päslack, who whipped the rebound into the net.

However, the gap reopened four minutes later. Tommy Turner's handball presented the German with a chance to deliver a venomous free-kick, and Albertz complied by curling a 20-yard effort a round the wall and past Roy.

Goals: Albertz pen (27) 0-1; Dodds (49)0-2; Päslack (61) 1-2; Albertz (65) 1-3.

St Mirren (3-4-3): Roy; McLaughlin, Turner, Rudden; Nicolson (McKenzie, 53), Gillies, Murray, Ross; Yardley (McGarry, 52), Quitongo (T Brown, 65), Päslack. Substitutes: Drew, Scrimgour (gk).

Rangers (4-4-2): Klos; Ricksen, Konterman, Amoruso, Van Bronckhorst; Tugay, Ferguson, Albertz, McCann (Vidmar, 82); Wallace, Dodds. Substitutes not used: Kanchelskis, Miller, Malcolm, M Brown (gk).

Referee: M McCurry.

Bookings: St Mirren: Quitongo, Ross. Rangers: Amoruso, Ferguson.

Man of the match: Albertz.

Attendance: 8,851.

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