Celtic raise spirits as lead at the top grows

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The Independent Football

Celtic bounced back from their European disappointment with a 1-0 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday which took them seven points clear of their Glasgow rivals, Rangers, who were beaten 2-1 at Hearts in their lunchtime kick-off at Tynecastle.

After the Champions League defeat against Aalborg in Denmark, which ended Celtic's involvement in Europe for the season, it was no surprise everything was a bit flat at Parkhead for the visit of the Highlanders. Shaun Maloney's strike in the 29th minute, however, was enough to separate the sides, which pleased Stephen McManus, although the Celtic captain was not inclined to read too much into their lead at the top of the table.

He said: "It was good to come back and get a win. We didn't play tremendously well but the most important thing was to get the three points. We will take it every week as it comes and we can only look after ourselves. We weren't boosted by the result at Tynecastle. We knew there was a chance to go further clear but the motivation was already there."

Rangers have dropped 10 points on the road so far this season and their captain, Barry Ferguson, admits there is now no room for error in their remaining games. "We spoke about that after the game [at Hearts]. We have to win every game now," the midfielder said. "It's just disappointing that it's come down to set-pieces again because last year we were very strong when the ball was played into the box. It's something we will have to sit down and chat about."

Goals from Marius Zaliukas and Laryea Kingston sealed a surprise win for Hearts despite an own goal from Christos Karipidis and a red card for Lee Wallace providing some hope for Rangers. Hearts had headed into the game with no wages in the bank for the second time this season and their captain, Christophe Berra, was thrilled with the win. He said: "The way we played showed the pay problem didn't affect us."