Gascoigne the main man

Rangers 2 Celtic 0
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The Independent Online
Paul Gascoigne's official shirt sponsor happens to be a Glasgow roofing firm. Considering the popular perception that British football's latter- day clown prince may have a slate or two missing under his peroxide crown, such patronage could be considered as apposite as the word "lager" being writ large on his blue jersey.

Gascoigne's lifting of the lid (or tugging of the ring-pull) about the drinking habits at Ibrox was dismissed as a storm in a pint-glass by the Rangers hierarchy. But to the world beyond Govan it came, on the eve of this season's first Old Firm derby, as another tuft of evidence that the Geordie boy, at 29, remains daft as a brush.

"Have you seen it?" Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, asked, shrugging his shoulders and sweeping it under the carpet as an issue of serious concern when asked about the Cutting Edge documentary as he left the Ibrox press room on Saturday night.

Gascoigne chose to keep his thoughts to himself, although all the fuss will have doubtless made little impression on him. As he said in an interview printed in the match programme: "I don't take notice of what anyone says. The only way I can answer is on the pitch."

The final say the Englishman had in the latest battle in Glasgow's perpetual internecine football war showed the other side of the Gazza coin. Until the dramatic denouement, his one notable contribution, save for an obligatory booking prompted by his over-zealous nature, was delivering the left-wing corner, six minutes into the second half, from which Richard Gough's header exploited Celtic's loss of Tosh McKinlay for a second yellow card offence two minutes before the break.

Celtic threatened to snatch the point that would have extended their unbeaten league run to 38 matches, the impressive Paolo Di Canio setting up Peter Grant and John Hughes for efforts which rattled Andy Goram's woodwork. What followed after the latter near miss, with little more than a minute left to play, was an uncanny echo of the passage of play which settled the last "auld enemy" encounter in June: when Gascoigne swept upfield after Gary McAllister's penalty miss and scored his Wembley wonder goal against Scotland.

On Saturday, Gascoigne went straight for the jugular again after the ball bounced off the bar and into his possession. When Jorg Albertz crossed from the left, the Englishman stooped to head the goal that conquered the brave Celts.

"Britannia rules the waves," the true blue half of Glasgow bellowed. Results in Continental competition last week suggested otherwise. Rangers, thanks largely to Gascoigne, moved five points clear in their quest to match the record nine successive titles Celtic won. But, in the school of European football, these Old Firm fixtures have become nothing more than play-ground scraps.

Goals: Gough (51) 1-0; Gascoigne (89) 2-0.

Rangers (3-5-2): Goram; Petric, Gough, Bjorklund; Cleland, Moore (Ferguson, 62), McCall, Gascoigne, Albertz; Van Vossen, Laudrup. Substitutes not used: McInnes, Snelders (gk).

Celtic (5-3-2): Marshall; McKinlay, Stubbs, Hughes, Boyd, McNamara; Donnelly, Grant, O'Neil (McLaughlin, 75); Di Canio, Thom (Wieghorst, 22). Substitute not used: MacKay.

Referee: W Young (Clarkston).

Bookings: Rangers: Gascoigne, Gough, Van Vossen. Celtic: McKinlay, Hughes, Di Canio, Boyd. Sending-off: Celtic: McKinlay.

Man of the match: Di Canio.

Attendance: 50,124.

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