Saints left cursing by Dodds

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The Independent Football

Back in the old routine? Not quite. Forget the bald statistics. Few of the 48,062 crowd left their seats at Ibrox until the end of the Scottish Premier League season opener, but it was through fear not fervour. Two goals inside a minute from Billy Dodds turned this game on its head, but the real sinner in the eyes of St Johnstone fans was referee Dougie McDonald.

Back in the old routine? Not quite. Forget the bald statistics. Few of the 48,062 crowd left their seats at Ibrox until the end of the Scottish Premier League season opener, but it was through fear not fervour. Two goals inside a minute from Billy Dodds turned this game on its head, but the real sinner in the eyes of St Johnstone fans was referee Dougie McDonald.

The official crucially kept Nick Dasovic off the pitch in the 55th minute, even though the midfielder had recovered from a crude Andrei Kanchelskis foul, and Dodds took advantage with an equaliser to shatter the visitors' dream of a first opening day victory in 25 years that their ambitious play deserved.

As always, the Scottish champions begin the new season by raising the special commemorative flag. At Ibrox, it has become not so much a tradition but an annual event, like summer holidays and Hogmanay.

Dick Advocaat, though, had long stopped dwelling on his achievement of delivering two titles in the two years since his arrival in Glasgow from PSV Eindhoven. To underline that, he had recruited six players to augment a team which finished in May with a record21-point margin over Celtic.

Two of those signings, the Dutchmen Bert Konterman and Fernando Ricksen, made their League debuts but the latter received a rude welcome from Graeme Jones, St Johnstone's striker, who bulldozed Ricksen into the turf with an ugly tackle after two minutes.

St Johnstone's record at Ibrox is dire, but little did their small band of fans realise that Sandy Clark's side were saving something special for them. Alan Kernaghan would not even been playing had he not signed a one-year contract on Friday, but the former Manchester City defender finished off a breathtaking move in the 14th minute, silencing Ibrox.

Paul Kane's diagonal free-kick was hooked back superbly from the byline, Jones rose aggressively and acrobatically ahead of Lorenzo Amoruso to fashion an overhead kick that swept the ball on to Kernaghan and he hooked past Stefan Klos from eight yards.

Rangers' wounded pride was clearly evident, though Kanchelskis might have applied the soothing balm of an equaliser six minutes later after robbing Gary Bollan, but the Saints keeper, Alan Main, blocked the shot with his feet.

Rod Wallace had an even clearer sight of goal when Giovanni van Bronckhorst set him free, but the little striker steered his shot wide of Main's far post. When Main produced a stunning save from a thunderous Jörg Albertz effort, the jeers rang out as Rangers headed off at half-time.

Advocaat introduced Neil McCann for Tony Vidmar at the break, but Rangers' frustration began to surface with some ugly tackling. Ricksen and Kanchelskis were booked with minutes of each other, the former for a cynical stiff-arm on Peter Lovenkrands and the latter for leaving his boot in after Nick Dasovic had won the ball in the 54th minute.

It was this incident, however, that lit the blue touch paper for a controversy that smouldered on after the end, because it played a pivotal role in dragging Rangers back into the game. Kanchelskis, the offender, escaped with only a yellow card, but Dasovic, the innocent party, was "punished" for receiving treatment by being forced to leave the pitch even though he had recovered.

As the St Johnstone midfielder stood in the technical area pleading to return to the pitch, Barry Ferguson pounced on a loose ball and drove into the space vacated by Dasovic. Ferguson's advance ended with a clever reverse pass into the path of Billy Dodds, and the striker poked the ball beyond Main for the equaliser.

St Johnstone were furious and their protests continued for almost a minute. Minds were clearly elsewhere, because within 60 seconds no-one tracked Dodds as he pursued a glorious 40-yard pass from Albertz and steered right foot shot past the bewildered Main.

However, it was the redoubtable goalkeeper who prevented the game slipping out of reach following a sublime seven-man Rangers move which saw Ferguson meet van Bronckhorst's cross. Main was the roadblock yet again.

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