Novo shows no mercy to old pals

Rangers 3 - Dundee 0
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The Independent Football

The third anniversary of Alex McLeish's arrival at Ibrox was marked in style as his players took Rangers back to the top of the Scottish Premier League, while their opponents sank to the bottom.

The third anniversary of Alex McLeish's arrival at Ibrox was marked in style as his players took Rangers back to the top of the Scottish Premier League, while their opponents sank to the bottom.

Nacho Novo and Dado Prso were allowed to plunder two goals in the opening four minutes, but McLeish knows that Auxerre will not be so generous when they come here on Wednesday in the Uefa Cup.

Celtic could regain the leadership today and they will now stand in the way of their Old Firm rivals in the Scottish Cup, after yesterday's third-round draw pitted the Glasgow rivals together at Parkhead.

These two sides met in the 2003 Scottish Cup final, but so much has happened to Dundee since then that they might view the intervening 18 months as a life sentence for their crime of ambition. The club went into administration a year ago, after revealing a £20m debt. Dundee's subsequent penury has seen Rangers take their three best players, Gavin Rae, Zurab Khizanishvili and Novo, for well below their true worth.

Novo moved to Ibrox during the summer for just £450,000 and the man who hit 26 goals for Dundee last term rubbed salt into the wounds of his erstwhile friends by giving Rangers the lead after just two minutes. The Spaniard appeared to dive after he bundled into Brent Sancho, but referee Mike McCurry ruled that he had been tugged by Jonay Hernandez, and that allowed Novo to stroke the penalty past Derek Soutar.

Dundee's meagre confidence was illustrated by the next goal, which was swiftly conceded, with Novo showing great pace to reach Fernando Ricksen's long ball, but Prso was allowed too much time to pull the cross down and drill a right foot shot past Soutar.

That should have signalled an onslaught from Rangers, but their tempo dropped and Dundee gradually fought their way into the contest. Twice they squandered chances to equalise, with Sancho firing a tame header at Stefan Klos from Steven Robb's fine cross and then Steve Lovell missing an empty goal after Klos and Gregory Vignal had got into a mix-up.

Had Prso not been denied by Steven McNally's fine tracking back on the half-hour, then Rangers might have killed the contest but another Vignal error allowed Fabian Caballero to set up Lovell and his shot was pushed wide by Klos.

However, any hopes that Dundee nursed of a comeback were rudely shattered just five minutes into the second half when Bob Malcolm put Rangers in a comfort zone.

Again, Dundee's defending was questionable as they failed to deal with Ricksen's corner, which fell eventually to Malcolm. His first effort was blocked by Lovell, but he seized on the rebound to rifle a left-foot shot into the net.

Thereafter, the day was just a long exercise in damage limitation for Dundee. Soutar made a great save to deny Khizanishvili's long-range effort and Novo dragged his shot wide after scampering clear in the dying minutes.

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