Kyrgiakos blamed for Rangers' late defeat

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The Independent Football

Peter Lovenkrands believes Sotirios Kyrgiakos must take the blame for costing Rangers three crucial points against Dunfermline on Boxing Day. The Scottish champions fought back from behind to lead 3-2, thanks to two goals from Lovenkrands, and looked set to win their third consecutive Scottish Premier League match.

But, with seconds to go, Kyrgiakos picked up his second yellow card of the game for jostling with Andy Tod and conceded a last-gasp penalty, which Darren Young converted to earn a draw. The Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, criticised the referee, Craig Thomson, after the game, claiming that the penalty should never have been given. But Lovenkrands has told his team-mate Kyrgiakos that he must hold his hand up after collecting his third red card in 13 games. "It's a mistake from Soto and he knows it," he said.

Rangers head into Saturday's game against Dundee United trailing the SPL leaders, Celtic, by 17 points and Lovenkrands admits that they cannot afford to haemorrhage any more points. "We definitely need to go and get the three points. It set us back not getting the three points we expected to get [against Dunfermline] and it was a blow for us. We need to get back on a run again."

Lovenkrands' agent has played down reports that Portsmouth are lining up a bid for the Dane. He has been linked with a move to the Premiership side after rejecting a new contract on reduced terms to remain at Ibrox. His representative, Ivan Benes, expects Lovenkrands to hold further talks with Rangers but says that he has had no contact with Portsmouth.

One player definitely leaving Ibrox is Federico Nieto, who has been plagued by injury during his time at the club. The striker, 22, has returned to the Argentinian club Almagro after being told he has no future with the Light Blues. Steven Thompson could be the next player heading out now that the clear-out has begun.

Nieto initially signed a six-month loan deal in the summer with the option of another five years and arrived after scoring 22 goals in 31 games the previous season. But the South American struggled to adapt to the Scottish game and made just six appearances before sustaining ankle ligament damage in a Champions' League game against Artmedia Bratislava in October.

Nieto has not featured since then and McLeish feared that he would struggle to break into the first-choice side in the new year, with the arrival of the Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd adding further competition. McLeish said: "Nieto has already left the club. We are not going to extend the deal or give the contract that we spoke about with agents when he arrived.

"He has had a tough time with injuries and I have not had nearly long enough to look at him, so he will go and we will look at other players. We swithered about keeping him for another six months but we have brought Kris Boyd in, we have Dado Prso coming back, we have Nacho Novo and Thomas Buffel, and Peter Lovenkrands is going great guns through the middle, so I couldn't see how I could get him into the team.

"I think we would only have been holding him back, so we felt it was time to sever the connection."

Thompson could be the next player to leave after struggling to make an impact during his two years at Ibrox. The 27-year-old has been a fringe player since joining Rangers from Dundee United in January 2003 and the arrival of Boyd means he will fall further down the pecking order. His agent, Darren Jackson, says that Thompson is determined to stay and fight for his place but would be unlikely to remain in the Scottish Premier League if he did leave Rangers.

Thompson is high on the wanted list of the Aberdeen manager, Jimmy Calderwood, but Jackson said: "Thommo is in no hurry to leave Rangers, but, if he did, then I can't see him staying in Scotland."

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