Zitelli ensures Hibs happiness

The England succession: Advocaat's Dutch mastery takes a knock
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The Independent Football

Scotland 1, England 0? Alex McLeish, the man who is tipped as the successor to Craig Brown, underlined his growing managerial reputation by denting that of one of the men who could yet follow Kevin Keegan.

Scotland 1, England 0? Alex McLeish, the man who is tipped as the successor to Craig Brown, underlined his growing managerial reputation by denting that of one of the men who could yet follow Kevin Keegan.

Dick Advocaat may prefer to walk away from Rangers if he finishes the season behind McLeish. David Zitelli's sublime goal put the champions in their place - four points behind Hibernian and six adrift of Celtic - and endorsed Edinburgh's role in the Scottish title race.

Easter Road's unconfined glee frustrated Andrei Kanchelskis so much that the Rangers substitute was sent off for a foolish lunge on Ulrik Laursen as the clock ran down.

Advocaat has been linked, like many other foreign managers, with the England vacancy. While the Dutchman's CV has undoubtedly been enhanced by his two years of plenty at Ibrox, it is Advocaat's previous experience as a national coach, when he took Holland to the 1994 World Cup quarter-finals, that makes him a serious contender - if he wants the job.

Unlike Keegan and Venables, he is no players' man - as Ruud Gullit, who was jettisoned by Advocaat, will testify. However, international football is not the Rangers manager's favourite subject right now. The World Cup ties deprived him of five players - four, ironically, from the Dutch camp - for this encounter while Stefan Klos's ankle injury meant that the young goalkeeper Mark Brown faced a hungry Hibernian.

The Edinburgh club's only defeat was inflicted by Celtic, but they needed victory against the champions on their own turf to prove, to others if not themselves, that their title credentials are genuine.

Zitelli underlined that desire inside two minutes when he pounced on Lorenzo Amoruso's misjudgement and fired in a rising shot which Brown had to push over the bar. The French striker volleyed another effort wide before Rangers could compose themselves in the eye of the storm. Two chances fell to Allan Johnston, but each time he delivered a meek side-foot shot into the arms of Nick Colgan.

The price for such profligacy was summed up by Zitelli when he put Hibernian ahead after 23 minutes. A sumptuous pass from John O'Neil allowed the Frenchman to beat the offside trap and Zitelli strode into the box, ignored Amoruso at his heels, and steered his shot under Brown.

For the remainder of the half, Rangers were ragged, especially at the back, giving the ball away too easily, ensuring an uncomfortable appointment with Advocaat at half-time. The Dutchman underlined the advantage his side hold over the rest of Scottish football when, after the interval, he brought on Kenny Miller, who has scarcely played since his £2m transfer from Hibs in the summer, and Kanchelskis - a club-record £5.5m signing - for the labouring Johnston and Sergio Porrini.

Miller almost silenced the jeers of his erstwhile fans when he picked out the Russian international with a sublime cross, but Kanchelskis tugged his shot wide. The winger, though, ought to have restored parity on the hour when his pace carried him clear of the Hibs defence. However, instead of shooting or cutting the ball back, the former Manchester United man delayed in his bid to win a penalty and was booked for diving.

Hibs almost rubbed salt into that wound but Gary Smith's clever chip from 25 yards crashed off the bar with Brown stranded. When Barry Ferguson had the ball in the net but was ruled offside, Rangers sensed it would not be their day.

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