Arteta the flag bearer in champions' flying start

Rangers 4 Kilmarnock 0
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The Independent Football

It's not only mad dogs and Englishmen who go out in the midday sun. Yesterday 49,000 Glaswegians gathered at lunchtime just as the Ibrox thermometer nudged 30C, and saw Kilmarnock roasted on a spit.

However, it was appropriate, on a day more suited to the Costa del Sol than the Clyde, that Mikel Arteta should inscribe his name on the champions' defence of their Scottish Premier League title. The Spanish midfielder's penalty in the final minute of last season was all that separated Rangers and Celtic after a 10-month campaign, and he continued in that vein by adding a double to the earlier goals of Peter Lovenkrands and Michael Mols.

Alex McLeish wore a glow that had nothing to do with the sun. "It's a great start, but we have won nothing yet and the prizes are not handed out until next May," declared the Rangers manager.

The sun-drenched skies were a perfect backdrop for the celebrations before the game as Rangers marked their 50th title by leaving a small flag on every spectators' seat, so that when the giant league championship flag was raised out on the pitch, it was mirrored by forests of fluttering blue from every corner of the stadium.

For Kilmarnock, though, it was a white-flag day. They surrendered in such abject fashion that the contest was over before half-time as they gifted Rangers two goals and handed the champions a numerical advantage with the dismissal of Chris Innes.

The central defender was sent off after 34 minutes for repeatedly fouling Mols, and Rangers exacted swift punishment by finding the net twice in five minutes to coast into a 3-0 lead.

Innes's folly was compounded by that of Colin Meldrum. The Kilmarnock goalkeeper handed Rangers their opening goal after just 14 minutes, after he failed to hold an innocuous hanging cross from Fernando Ricksen, and dropped the ball at the feet of the surprised Lovenkrands, who stabbed it into the empty net.

Meldrum atoned with a save from Mols. but when Innes - booked earlier for hacking the Dutchman down - flagrantly fouled his twisting tormentor again, Kilmarnock were depleted.

Just two minutes later, Mols guided a half-volley into the net as he met a flick-on from Arteta's corner by Craig Moore, and then Arteta increased that lead further with a penalty after Sean Hessey pushed Barry Ferguson as he tried to reach Ronald de Boer's cross.

Rangers cruised through the second half, but Arteta lifted everyone off their seat with a sublime strike in the 71st minute. Ricksen, De Boer and Lovenkrands saw their patient build-up finished off by the young Spaniard.

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