Jelavic double keeps Rangers on the high road

Rangers 3 Dundee United 1

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The Independent Football

Two goals from Nikica Jelavic eased Rangers to a 3-1 win over Dundee United, taking the Scottish champions 12 points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier and 15 ahead of Celtic, who play at second-placed Motherwell today.

Jelavic was originally credited with a hat-trick, but Rangers' third was judged to have been diverted into his own net by Garry Kenneth off the striker's diving header.

"You can go in there and try to get the ball off him – I wish you all the best!" the Rangers manager, Ally McCoist, said. "It was an excellent goal. You're telling me it goes in off Garry Kenneth but it doesn't go in without Jelavic putting in a real centre-forward's desire to get on the end of a wonderful cross from Steven Whittaker."

However, it was the visitors who had the better early chances, Jon Daly scooping the best of them over the bar. The Tannadice side paid the price of that miss after 19 minutes when Jelavic showed them how to finish. Matt McKay crossed from the right and the striker headed firmly past the Terrors' goalkeeper, Dusan Pernis.

Jelavic might have added to his tally when he met a Lee Wallace ball from the left with a volley that Pernis did well to hold. That was Wallace's last meaningful involvement in the game, a thigh injury forcing him off after 32 minutes to be replaced byGregg Wylde.

United could have levelled just before half-time but Rangers' goalkeeper, Allan McGregor, smothered the ball at Daly's feet. After that escape it was perhaps inevitable that Rangers would strike the next blow. Wylde was felled in the penalty area by Paul Dixon in the 63rd minute and the referee, Brian Winter, pointed to to the spot. Jelavic's composed finish sent Pernis the wrong way.

Ten minutes later the visitors gave themselves a foothold in the match when Daly met Kenneth's cross and looped in a header.

However, Rangers restored their two-goal advantage through Jelavic's desire and Kenneth's misfortune.

In the final minute Wylde was shown a red card for a rash challenge on Willo Flood as Rangers ended the game with 10 men but with three points.

"I haven't seen it but I'm told that he kicked out at somebody," McCoist said of his errant substitute. "Ten years ago we wouldn't be talking about it, it would be nothing. Nowadays it's a sending-off and that's not in Gregg's defence, far from it. He should know better. But he will have to learn that things like that are not acceptable."

Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Whittaker, Goian, Bocanegra, Wallace (Wylde, 32); Bartley, Edu, Davis, McKay (Bedoya, 74); Papac Jelavic.

Dundee Utd (4-4-2): Pernis; Watson, Kenneth, Gunning, Dixon; Flood, Robertson, Rankin, Mackay-Steven (Dow, 77); Daly, Russell (Dalla Valle, 81).

Referee: Brian Winter.

Man of the match: Jelavic (Rangers)