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Page last updated at 14:26 GMT, Saturday, 29 March 2008

Rangers 1-0 Celtic

By David Sharp

Kevin Thomson celebrates scoring for Rangers
The outstanding Kevin Thomson scored the crucial winning goal

Kevin Thomson picked an opportune moment to score his first goal for Rangers as they went six points clear of Celtic at the top of the SPL.

Celtic settled first and Scott Brown squandered two superb chances when his control deserted him in the box.

On 44 minutes, Thomson played a clever one-two with Jean-Claude Darcheville before tucking the ball under Artur Boruc to give the home side the lead.

Allan McGregor made a terrific save from Andreas Hinkel's goal-bound drive.

McGregor, Barry Ferguson, Christian Dailly and Lee McCulloch all returned from injury after missing Scotland's friendly against Croatia in midweek.

Frenchman Jean-Claude Darcheville made his Old Firm debut as the lone striker.

But his striking counterpart Scott McDonald was left on the bench by Celtic manager Gordon Strachan, with Georgios Samaras partnering Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink up front.

Straight from kick-off, Boruc launched a huge punt aimed at the head of Vennegoor of Hesselink as Celtic indicated how they were set to play.

It was a typically frantic, disjointed and mostly aerial battle from the start, with both sides engaging in an extended game of heady tennis.

Vennegoor of Hesselink failed to connect with Aiden McGeady's menacing cross, while McCulloch flashed a header just wide at the other end.

Celtic were enjoying marginally the better of the early possession without posing any real threat until Samaras threaded a neat ball into the path of Brown in the Rangers box.

The midfielder found himself clean through on McGregor.

Kevin Thomson celebrates scoring for Rangers
The outstanding Thomson scored the crucial winning goal

But, as he attempted to shoot, the ball got caught under his feet and the Rangers goalkeeper did well to scramble the ball away.

Brown ghosted in at the Rangers back-post after 32 minutes, latching on to Samaras' weak header, but he was again thwarted by McGregor.

Rangers were dangerous on the counter-attack and created a flurry of chances in the space of the four minutes approaching half-time.

First, Carlos Cuellar had a header cleared off the line then Ferguson's snap-shot from 12 yards was saved by Boruc.

A quick Celtic break saw Brown in space inside the Rangers box, but again his touch let him down and Rangers punished the mistake, countering at speed.

The impressive Thomson gathered the ball on the edge of the Celtic penalty area and ran towards goal.

He prodded the ball through to Jean-Claude Darcheville, who timed his return pass to perfection.

Thomson ran on to it and swept the ball low under Boruc for a classy finish.

The Ibrox side were spraying the ball about with confidence after the break as Celtic struggled to get possession.


But Hinkel brought out an athletic save from McGregor after 64 minutes when he unleashed a rising left-foot shot from 25 yards.

McGregor leapt to tip the ball over the bar to retain Rangers slender advantage.

Rangers substitute Nacho Novo twice broke clear in the final 10 minutes, but Boruc was equal to his rifled efforts.

Charlie Adam should have put the match beyond Celtic with minutes to go but his shot lacked conviction and Boruc again saved easily.

Rangers: McGregor, Broadfoot, Cuellar, Weir, Whittaker, Dailly, Thomson (Adam 77), Davis (Naismith 80), Ferguson, McCulloch, Darcheville (Novo 68).
Subs Not Used: Alexander, Boyd, Furman, McMillan.

Booked: Thomson, Dailly, Naismith.

Goals: Thomson 45.

Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura, Scott Brown, Hartley (Robson 81), McGeady, Vennegoor of Hesselink (McDonald 79), Samaras.
Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, Wilson, Sno, Donati, O'Dea.

Booked: Vennegoor of Hesselink, McManus, Naylor, Boruc, Scott Brown.

Att: 50,325

Ref: S Dougal (Scotland).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Rangers' Kevin Thomson (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
Rangers v Celtic as it happened
29 Mar 08 |  Scottish Premier
SPL photo gallery
29 Mar 08 |  Scotland

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