Old Firm passion given free rein

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The Independent Online


Rangers 3 Celtic 3

Rangers retained their four-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier Division yesterday after an epic game at Ibrox. Six goals, another disallowed and a goalmouth skirmish left supporters and players drained.

The goals reflecting the action were both brilliant and mundane, starting with Andreas Thom's opener for Celtic, which was in the former category. Collecting a pass from Simon Donnelly, the German striker strode forward a couple of yards before unleashing a powerful shot past Andy Goram from 25 yards. It was the kind of goal which had tempted Tommy Burns, the Celtic manager, to sign the player, although until now he has rarely demonstrated that ability.

Controversy is never far from an Old Firm derby, and after 23 minutes Rangers were denied an equaliser after David Robertson had squeezed the ball in at the near post, only to discover a linesman's flag raised. Thom headed wide from a good position before Brian Laudrup, on his return from injury, ensured the teams would go in at half-time on level terms. The Dane drove an angled shot into the corner of the net after the ball had broken free to the edge of the area.

If the first half had produced a couple of memorable moments, the second was a roller-coaster ride, with incident and chances galore, the first of which saw Paul Gascoigne fire a free-kick narrowly over the crossbar. Shortly afterwards, Celtic again took the lead, this time from the penalty spot after Richard Gough had been penalised for a foul on John Hughes. John Collins saw Goram choose the right direction, but his dive was insufficient to enable him to keep the ball out of the net.

A curled free-kick from Gascoigne after 63 minutes found the head of Ally McCoist, who had a simple task in making the score 2-2. Goram then produced a save verging on the miraculous to deny Celtic's Dutch striker, Pierre Van Hooijdonk. Seconds later, Goram and Hughes appeared to trade punches on the goal-line, for which both received a yellow card.

Rangers took the lead with 20 minutes remaining through an own-goal from Tosh McKinlay. A cross from Oleg Salenko was intended for the waiting McCoist before McKinlay's interception, which sent the ball spinning beyond his own goalkeeper. The afternoon's drama was completed two minutes later, when Van Hooijdonk rose to glance a McKinlay cross past Goram via his left-hand post.

Rangers (3-5-2): Goram; Gough, McLaren, Petric; Cleland, Ferguson (McCoist, 51), Gascoigne, McCall, Robertson; Salenko (Miller, 76), Laudrup.

Celtic (4-4-2): Marshall; McNamara, Boyd, Hughes, McKinlay; Thom, Grant, McStay, Collins; Donnelly, (McLaughlin, 76 ), Van Hooijdonk (Walker, 84).

Referee: H Dallas (Motherwell).

n Alex Miller, the Hibernian manager, labelled Michael O'Neill "foolish" after seeing the Northern Ireland midfielder dismissed for two injury- time bookings in the 2-1 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle yesterday. John Robertson's 55th-minute penalty settled the issue three minutes after Chris Jackson had cancelled out John Millar's 32nd-minute opener for Hearts. Rangers photograph, page 31

Glenn Moore, page 30