Hughes leaves it late to keep Rangers in title hunt

Hibernian 0 Rangers 1
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The Independent Football

Stephen Hughes threw Rangers a title lifeline yesterday with a winner deep into injury-time at Easter Road that stopped the champions slipping seven points behind Celtic in the Scottish Premier League title race.

The Scotland Under-21 international midfielder appeared in the box with the contest heading for a draw and kept his nerve to bury a right-foot shot which won a game Rangers rarely looked like emerging from with any success.

"We have to keep winning and staying as close to Celtic as we can," the relieved Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, said. "Stephen showed a lot of composure under real pressure at the end."

The Hibernian manager, Bobby Williamson, was left to rue missed chances in the first half, when his young side put Rangers under a great deal of fierce pressure.

It was during that spell that Ian Murray ought to have put the Edinburgh side ahead in the 22nd minute when Alen Orman's cross was cleverly left by Grant Brebner and Murray, somehow, managed to shoot over from just two yards out.

Then, nine minutes before the interval, Matthias Doumbe had a shot following Kevin Thomson's corner that was cleared off the line by Shota Arveladze.

Rangers began to pose more of a threat in the second half and had a claim for a penalty turned down when Peter Lovenkrands ran into Colin Murdock. Lovenkrands then tore Hibs apart with a mazy run on the hour that finished with the home goalkeeper, Daniel Andersson, palming his shot wide.

The Danish international had another penalty claim in the 84th minute when Murdock looked to be holding his arm, but it was again denied and so left to Hughes to rescue Rangers.

Henning Berg's long ball into the box was not cleared properly, Gary Smith's header being helped back in by Fernando Ricksen for Hughes to steer his shot past Andersson.

Goal: Hughes (90) 0-1.

Hibernian (4-3-3): Andersson; Orman, Doumbe, Murdock, Smith; Brebner, Thomson (Nicol, 76), Murray (Dobbie, 55); Brown, O'Connor, Riordan. Substitutes not used: Hyldgaard (gk), McManus, Whittaker.

Rangers (4-3-3): Klos; Ross, Berg, Khizanishvili, Ball; Ricksen, Hughes, Lovenkrands; Capucho (Burke, 56), Mols (Ostenstad, 68), Arveladze. Substitutes not used: McGregor (gk), Vanoli, Emerson.

Referee: S Dougal.

Bookings: Hibernian: Murray, Brebner, Thomson; Rangers: Ross, Mols, Lovenkrands.

Man of the match: Brebner.

Attendance: 11,116.