Nuno Capucho repaid a slice of the faith Alex McLeish has invested in him by getting Rangers out of jail at Rugby Park yesterday with a late headed winner that stopped the champions slipping further behind in the Scottish Premier League title race.
The gap between Rangers and Celtic was poised to grow to seven points until Capucho came off the bench and rose at the back post in the 87th minute to meet Mikel Arteta's free-kick and snatch a decisive goal that saw him mobbed by relieved Rangers fans in the wild celebrations.
The Portuguese winger came from FC Porto in July and his status as a folk hero was assured by being a member of the side that denied Celtic the Uefa Cup last May in Seville. But a series of ineffective and lazy displays had seen his stock plummet and lately he has been lucky to get a place on the bench.
"It has not been too hard to leave out Nuno recently," said McLeish later. "He knows he has to give us much more.
"We needed a response after the Man Utd game. We had no excuse there. It would have been a mountain to climb if we'd dropped further behind in the title race."
Rangers did not look as if they would have to scrap so hard after going ahead in the 30th minute through Shota Arveladze, who controlled Mikel Arteta's corner and shot into the roof of the net.
However, Kilmarnock hit back just 10 minutes later with a sublime goal. Stephen Murray's crossfield pass was cleverly back-heeled by Steve Fulton into the path of Peter Canero, whose cross to the back post was swept in by Gary McDonald's volley.
Kilmarnock then went ahead in the 50th minute. Murray's cross was not dealt with properly, Gary McSwegan knocked it back into the path of Canero whose low raking shot from the edge of the box beat Stefan Klos.
Rangers, though, showed spirit. They restored parity in the 64th minute when Michael Mols' lovely reverse pass fell to Arveladze whose cool angled finished beat keeper Francois Dubourdeau.
Kilmarnocok substitute Martin Hardie thought he had snatch a winner but Arteta cleared his shot off the line and it was another substitute who supplied the sting in the tail.
Kilmarnock (4-4-2): F Dubourdeau; G Shields, G Greer, F Dindeleux, G Hay; P Canero, S Fulton (B McLaughlin, 89), G McDonald, S Murray (M Hardie, 71); K Boyd (G McSwegan, 35), C Nish. Substitutes not used: C Meldrum, B McLaughlin, M Hardie, S Dillon.
Rangers (4-3-3): S Klos; F Ricksen, H Berg, M Ball, P Vanoli; S Hughes, E Costa (N Capucho, 80), M Arteta; S Arveladze, M Mols (E Ostenstad, 90), P Lovenkrands. Substitutes not used: A McGregor, M Ross, C Burke.
Referee: J Underhill.
Bookings: Kilmarnock: Shields. Rangers: Ricksen.
Man of the match: Arteta.
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- Alex Mcleish
- Celtic F.c.
- Mikel Arteta
- Rangers Fc
- Scottish Premier League
- UEFA Europa League