McDonald strikes late to leave Gretna shattered

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The Independent Online

With five minutes remaining at Fir Park yesterday Celtic were heading for a surprise defeat to Gretna. That they turned it round and won 2-1 should come as a surprise to no one. Gordon Strachan's side, as they demonstrated in the Champions League on Wednesday with a late victory over Milan, the champions of Europe, are a resilient bunch.

It was Scott McDonald who snatched that late winner against Milan and he was at it again yesterday to put the champions back to the top of the Scottish Premier League ahead of Hibernian, who had beaten Rangers 1-0 on Saturday.

Fabian Yantorno's 30-yard free-kick after 36 minutes gave Gretna a half-time lead before Chris Killen headed Celtic level in the 85th minute with his first goal for the club and a point looked secure for the Parkhead side. But as the match edged towards three minutes of injury time, McDonald drove home from 12 yards out after a wayward Aiden McGeady shot had landed at his feet.

It was another dramatic end to a Celtic match which looked to be slipping away from them as it entered the latter stages and they move a point ahead of Hibernian. The shattered Gretna players sloped off, knowing a historic victory had been taken from their grasp and realising that, for all their efforts, they were still bottom of the table.

Aberdeen, who also had a terrific week in Europe, carried on the good work by beating St Mirren 4-0 at Pittodrie yesterday. The Dons' 1-1 draw against Dnipro booked their passage to the Uefa Cup group stage and they returned to domestic action in style.

Scott Severin scored a penalty in either half, both of which were won by Jeffrey de Visscher, while, in between, Lee Miller capitalised on a fluffed back-pass from John Potter to round the goalkeeper Chris Smith and score.

Miller then slotted in from a great pass by the substitute Jackie McNamara with three minutes remaining to score Aberdeen's fourth, which was harsh on a St Mirren side who played well in spells.

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, defended his decision to play Kris Boyd as a lone striker after their defeat to Hibernian at Ibrox. The system had worked well for both Jean-Claude Darcheville and Daniel Cousin in Champions League matches this season, but questions were asked when Boyd was deployed for the visit of Hibs.

Smith has conceded that Boyd operates more effectively with a strike partner and the plan failed to work for Rangers when David Murphy scored the only goal with a header midway through the second half.

"That's the way I wanted to play," Smith said afterwards. "The situation is that we have a lot of players who are trying to find out what it's like to play Champions League games in midweek and then play in the SPL on a Saturday.

"I just felt it was better to change things and give Kris the opportunity. It's not ideal for him and I appreciate that. It was a game where Hibs played exactly the same formation as ourselves and neither team was able to get anybody close to that central striker, so it's a difficult task at times for players up there."

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