Rangers' setback hands new year opportunity to Celtic

Dundee United 1 - Rangers 1
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The Independent Football

Hamed Namouchi rescued a point for Rangers at Tannadice yesterday in injury time in an unorthodox manner, but the net effect of taking £8m for Jean-Alain Boumsong may prove costly in the long run.

The substitute bundled in an equaliser with his shoulder, from Fernando Ricksen's corner, to put Rangers top of the Scottish Premier League on goal difference - at least temporarily. However, snatching a draw from the jaws of a defeat against the bottom club will be viewed as a setback.

Celtic, who play today, can now pull ahead and the way Dundee United exposed the porous Rangers defence following Boumsong's departure to Newcastle United does not augur well for Alex McLeish.

David McCracken's 11th-minute header seemed certain to inflict a first defeat in 16 league games upon Rangers.

The visitors' vulnerability was alarmingly obvious in the first half, never more so than when McCracken scored. Mark Wilson's initial corner was poorly cleared to the feet of Derek McInnes, who swept a cross back into the box that was met by McCracken - he executed a downward header that flew past Stefan Klos.

Dado Prso ought to have equalised when he took advantage of Wilson's slip on the sodden surface, but the Croatian was closed down by a posse of United defenders after his ponderous advance into the area.

It looked as if Dundee United had doubled their lead on the half hour - Jim McIntyre turned in Barry Wilson's raking cross, then was denied by an offside flag.

Only Alex Rae showed any menace for Rangers - he was denied in stoppage time by the alert goalkeeper, Tony Bullock, after Steven Thompson set him up.

McIntyre ought to have scored for United after the interval but Klos spooned away his shot; the home side were then denied a penalty in the 73rd minute as Gregory Vignal used a hand to clear Barry Robson's corner off the line.

Bullock produced two sublime saves to deny Ricksen's free-kick and Prso's header. His counterpart, Klos, then distracted everyone by coming up for Ricksen's late corner, from which Namouchi profited.