Rangers crown comeback to deny Celtic four in a row

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The Independent Online

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan admitted his side "weren't up for the challenge" of winning the Scottish Premier League after their closest rivals Rangers sauntered to the title yesterday with a 3-0 victory at Dundee United. Celtic, meanwhile, could only draw 0-0 with Hearts.

Kyle Lafferty, Pedro Mendes and Kris Boyd were all on the scoresheet for Rangers who took the title for the first time since 2005. They will go directly into the group stages of the Champions League while Celtic will have to qualify. Celtic had to win yesterday and hope that Rangers slipped up against United but they were denied even that by a string of fine saves by Hearts keeper Marian Kello.

Rangers captain David Weir said: "It's unbelievable, a great feeling. We've worked hard this season and it's a great finish." Asked if he expected yesterday's game to be so easy, the veteran defender added: "You've got to give our boys credit as well. I thought we played really well."

Rangers manager, Walter Smith, said: "It's fantastic, great for us. Terrific performance." Smith admitted he doubted Rangers could win the title when they fell seven points behind Celtic in December. "You obviously hope but I felt at the stage in late December when we went well behind Celtic that we would lose out. But we haven't. We've had a good spirit in our team. The other problems we've had otherwise have been something that we've managed to get over. It's a credit to every one of them – they've been fantastic."

And in a subtle dig at Celtic striker Georgios Samaras, who claimed Rangers would not be worthy champions, Smith said: "I don't really care whether people think we're the best team or not – we've won it."

Strachan (right), who was going for four championships in a row, pronounced: "Today, it wasn't good enough; the game was dead after the [Rangers] result filtered through. But we'd like to thank the players and staff; they gave it their best shot. I'd like to thank supporters. It is disappointing but we have only ourselves to blame.

"We will analyse it later on but it doesn't take a genius to see that in some areas, we weren't as good as we have been in the last three years. Then we go on to the next part and we say well done to Rangers.

"We say well done to Walter [Smith], Ally [McCoist], Kenny [McDowall], and Jim [Stewart] and their players because know how difficult it is; it's not easy to win championships. There is a lot that goes on.

"We congratulate them and I'm sure we will give them a run for their money next year. We congratulate them because we think we can win with dignity and hopefully lose with dignity. That's basically it for today; there is plenty of time to think about it for the next few days."

Rangers have now won the Scottish title 52 times.

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