Rangers rock solid

Rangers 3 Kilmarnock 0
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The Independent Online

Rangers 3 Kilmarnock 0

The Premier Division title race has become one of psychological warfare between Rangers and their great rivals, Celtic, with Rangers taking the advantage by moving five points clear on a day when Celtic's game with Raith Rovers fell victim to the weather.

The two clubs who have shaped the history of football in Scotland are locked together in one of the most interesting campaigns for years, and as they play mind games with each other the coming month will see who keeps their nerve, with both having lost just one league game over the first half of the season.

Although not at their best, Rangers did enough to see off a poor Kilmarnock side to give their supporters the Christmas present they most wanted. While their flair players, Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne, were not required to rise above the ordinary, the overall strength of Rangers was always too much for Kilmarnock to harbour realistic hopes of an upset. Only rarely did Kilmarnock threaten and when they did the Rangers defence, in which Richard Gough was outstanding, stood firm.

It had taken the legs of Dragoje Lekovic to deny Oleg Salenko before the Russian striker gave Rangers the lead. He was well positioned and unmarked at the far post as he side-footed the ball into the net from a deep Laudrup cross. Kilmarnock might have pulled level two minutes later but Tom Brown wasted their best chance of the game when he sent a free header wide of the post.

The visitors were to pay for their indiscretion on the stroke of half- time when a Gascoigne flick was handled inside the area by Jim Lauchlan to give Rangers a penalty, from which Gordon Durie doubled their lead.

That second goal effectively killed off the Kilmarnock challenge as well as any interest or entertainment this game had to offer a large crowd on a bitterly cold day. Paul Wright shot narrowly wide in the 63rd minute, while Ian Ferguson saw his shot from 18 yards saved by the goalkeeper. It was left to Gascoigne, with virtually the last kick of the game, to seal the result. Derek McInnes fired a diagonal ball to Salenko, who found Gascoigne inside the area. A quick flick deceived a defender and a low shot completed the move.

Saturday's games will give both Rangers and Celtic another chance to jockey for position before their meeting on 3 January, a match which could go a long way towards determining the destination of the league flag. There is little doubt that any Celtic spy in the main stand at Ibrox yesterday would have seen little to cause undue concern in the way Rangers played, although Tommy Burns and Walter Smith, the two managers, know well enough by now that an Old Firm game is a one-off occasion.

Rangers (3-4-3): Goram; Petric, Gough, McLaren; Miller, Gascoigne, Ferguson (McInnes, 75), Robertson; Durie (Durrant, 84), Salenko, Laudrup. Substitute not used: Mikhailichenko.

Kilmarnock (4-4-2): Lekovic; MacPherson, Whitworth, Lauchlan, Reilly; Mitchell, Henry, Connor, Holt; Wright, Brown. Substitutes not used: Montgomerie, Maskrey, Meldrum (gk).

Referee: W Crombie (Edinburgh).

Goals: Salenko (24) 1-0; Durie (pen 45) 2-0; Gascoigne (90) 3-0.

Bookings: Rangers: Miller. Kilmarnock: Connor, Whitworth, Brown.

Man of the match: Gough. Attendance: 45,173