Davis on a high as Rangers go on top

Rangers 1 Celtic 0
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The Independent Football

By the end, the players were separated by the feeling of consequence that seeped into their bones in the same way as the cutting chill of the wind and rain. This was a relentless occasion, as it so often is when the Old Firm meet, but in the face of the constant, driving downpour, and the heavy significance of the result, it was those wearing Rangers jerseys who acknowledged the thrill in their hearts as they strode in celebration, arms raised, towards their fans. The Celtic players walked sullenly, heads bowed, towards the tunnel and it felt as though one goal, one game, one occasion, was deep with meaning.

In winning, Rangers overtook their rivals at the top of the Premier League and, with three games remaining, hungrily grabbed the initiative in the title race. Under slate grey skies, the home side asserted themselves defiantly and Celtic, although never without heart, could not find a retort. "We're in a good position now," said Walter Smith, the Rangers manager. "It's in our hands."

Steven Davis provided the decisive touch, in the only glimpse of coherent, slick play the game could muster. Kris Boyd's header sent Kenny Miller scurrying down the left of the penalty area. His cross was delivered in front of Davis, who turned the ball into the net. Just before half-time, Davis hacked a clearance off his own goal-line, from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink's header and from such small margins, emphatic results can occur.

Steven Whittaker had already hit the post, with an inswinging cross from the left, while Shunsuke Nakamura forced Neil Alexander to tip over from a dipping free-kick in a game that was heartfelt rather than considered. Having been imposed upon, Celtic were the more dominant team after the interval, but Alexander was equal to another Vennegoor of Hesselink header.

Rangers should have sealed the win when Boyd was sent through by Miller's pass, but his shot was straight at Artur Boruc. "It's a challenge now, but I've every faith in the players," said Gordon Strachan, the Celtic manager.