Gascoigne cheers Rangers

Rangers 2 Gough 51, Gascoigne 89 Celtic 0 Attendance: 50,210
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The Independent Online
CONSIDERING their efforts on the European stage in midweek, the Old Firm could reasonably have been renamed the Infirm as they got back to their parochial business in the West End of Glasgow yesterday.

The Inebriated might have been an alternative new sobriquet, given Paul Gascoigne's spilling of the beans - or bevvy - on the drinking habits of the Rangers squad. Whatever you cared to call it, the engagement at Ibrox was the customary heady cocktail that has now intoxicated Glasgow for 108 years.

When the dust settled, with Celtic on top of the yellow card count, 5- 3 - though with Tosh McKinlay receiving two of those bookings it left Rangers with an 11-10 advantage in terms of personnel - it was Gascoigne who settled the score that mattered. His left-wing corner was headed in by Richard Gough six minutes into the second half. Then, just after the Rangers woodwork had been rattled for a second time, the Anglo Clown Prince made the points safe in the 89th minute, heading Jorg Albertz's cross past Gordon Marshall.

It went without saying, though the Glasgow Herald said it anyway on Friday when lamenting the state of Scottish football, that the failings of Rangers and Celtic in continental competition were of little or no consequence to the 50,500 in attendance yesterday. Rangers may have sunk to the bottom of their Champions' League class with a sloppy failure in their French test against Auxerre on Wednesday, and Celtic may have been dumped out of the Uefa Cup in Hamburg the previous night, but their faithful followers would have gladly forgiven them that for the taste of victory against their big-city rivals.

This, for the benefit of the uninformed south of Hadrian's ultimate defensive wall, is the season in which the record run of nine titles Celtic gathered under Jock Stein from 1966 to 1974 stands to be equalled by the Rangers juggernaut. The championship trophy remained at Ibrox at the end of last season even though Tommy Burns' Celts lost just one league game. That 2-0 Old Firm defeat at Parkhead 12 months ago proved decisive when the May day of reckoning came round.

Celtic lined up yesterday on a 37-match unbeaten league run and, in light of Rangers' 100 per cent Premier Division record this season, they could ill-afford to become reacquainted with domestic defeat and concede a five- point lead to their rivals.

While it was fair to say that Gascoigne and his colleagues looked like walking advertisements for drinking - they have the name of a popular brand of lager emblazoned on their blue shirts - Celtic entered the fray with troubles of their own. Jorge Cadete, their Portuguese winger, was hamstrung, and Pierre van Hooijdonk, a Dutchman so cheesed off he wants pounds 1m just to stay at Parkhead, was left out in the cold by Burns and told to report for the Old Firm reserve match across the city.

It was Rangers, however, who were in danger of being caught cold at Ibrox. Their midfielders, Gascoigne included, conceded vital ground in the opening 20 minutes. Their collective lethargy very nearly cost them, too, as their opponents, the dynamic Paolo Di Canio in particular, eagerly exploited the space offered to them.

Rangers had Andy Goram to thank for performing a one-man saviour act with a one-handed save which denied Di Canio after the Italian, in his green and white boots, slipped past Gordan Petric and Richard Gough. Slowly but surely, however, the green-and-white tide was stemmed.

Rangers were denied themselves by the referee Willie Young's whistle, which signalled the award of a free-kick to the home side just as Albertz was stroking the ball into the Celtic net. As the play became ensnared in an increasingly factious midfield contest, Gascoigne was yellow-carded for aiming a kick at Brian O'Neill. He was followed, twice, by McKinlay, who was duly sent to an early bath two minutes before the break.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Celtic rallied after Gough's goal. Peter Grant rifled a shot against a post just before the hour, and then John Hughes headed against the bar before Gascoigne had the final say.

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