De Boer displays his strike rate

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The Independent Football

Ronald De Boer paid off another slice of that £4.5m fee when he struck the only goal yesterday that allowed Rangers to close the gap, momentarily, on Hibernian and Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

Ronald De Boer paid off another slice of that £4.5m fee when he struck the only goal yesterday that allowed Rangers to close the gap, momentarily, on Hibernian and Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

The Dutchman was recruited from Barcelona to augment Ibrox's Champions' League ambitions, and indeed has already done so by scoring his first goal for the club in the rout of Sturm Graz five days earlier, but his contribution in trying to repair the damage incurred by that Old Firm denouement three weeks ago and a draw at Dundee last weekend was gratefully received.

De Boer was a teenage striker at Ajax before retreating into the midfield role which made him his name for club and country, but he regressed to his youth yesterday as he partnered Billy Dodds up front and eventually found his reward in the 58th minute.

Ironically, Dodds, the man who has averaged literally a goal a game since coming to Ibrox himself 10 months ago, turned inadvertent provider.

The Scotland striker latched onto substitute Neil McCann's precise pass and bore down on Antti Niemi, the Hearts keeper who had defied his old team on countless occasions until that moment. Dodds' shot was parried and fell to De Boer, who carefully picked his spot between two defenders guarding the line.

It was a relief to the 47,340 crowd inside Ibrox, but also to Dick Advocaat. The Rangers manager could not have countenanced a third league game without a win, given Celtic's current relentless march.

Yet Hearts looked as if they were going to spoil those plans. Copying the counter-attacking style they used on Thursday to decent effect in the Uefa Cup tie in Germany with VfB Stuttgart, they kept Dodds' opportunities to a minimum. But the midweek toil in Europe took its toll and in the second half they ran out of gas to allow De Boer to re-ignite Rangers' league bid.

Goal: De Boer (58) 1-0.

Rangers (4-4-2): Klos; Ricksen, Konterman, Amoruso, Numan; Johnston, Tugay, Van Bronckhorst, Albertz (McCann, 46); R de Boer (Miller, 86), Dodds (Vidmar, 76). Substitutes not used: Lovenkrands, Charbonnier (gk).

Heart of Midlothian (4-5-1): Niemi; Murray, Pressley, Petric, Naysmith; Juanjo (Jackson, 86), Flögel, Cameron, Fulton, F Simpson; McSwegan (O'Neil, 74). Substitues not used: Rousset, Kirk, Neilson.

Referee: H Dallas.

Bookings: Rangers: Numan, Ricksen, Hearts: Simpson.

Man of the match: De Boer.

Attendance: 47,340.

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