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Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Saturday, 27 December 2008

Rangers 0-1 Celtic

By Thomas McGuigan

Scott McDonald fired Celtic in front
Scott McDonald fires Celtic in front with a blistering strike on the turn

Scott McDonald's predatory strike was enough to see Celtic extend their lead to seven points after a scrappy Old Firm encounter at Ibrox.

Midfielder Steven Davis blazed an early chance wide as Rangers sought a breakthrough against the SPL leaders.

Artur Boruc saved brilliantly when Kris Boyd was put through clear on goal a minute into the second half.

And McDonald made Rangers pay after 58 minutes when he spun Kirk Broadfoot to arrow a shot into the top corner.

Both sides struggled to master treacherous conditions underfoot and the early action was more akin to Dancing On Ice than Old Firm derby.

Rangers spurned a great chance to take the lead in the fourth minute when Davis fired wide at the second attempt after a desperate block by Gary Caldwell.

The hosts had the ball in the net six minutes later but referee Craig Thomson blew for a foul on goalkeeper Boruc after Broadfoot fouled the Pole on the line.

With players sliding all over the pitch, passing was at a premium and long balls into the box seemed to be the likeliest way to create an opening.

Pedro Mendes tried a couple of long-range efforts in a drab first half, but the Portuguese found the Celtic fans behind the goal rather than testing Boruc.

Celtic were struggling to create anything of note with McDonald and striking partner Georgios Samaras unable to get into the game as the opening half petered out.

Artur Boruc saves from Kris Boyd
Artur Boruc denies Kris Boyd with a brilliant save moments after the break

Boruc pulled off a superb stop to deny Boyd a minute after the break as Rangers started the second half in aggressive fashion.

Rangers captain Barry Ferguson threaded a superb pass behind the Celtic defence and the Scotland striker saw his effort brilliantly saved.

McDonald gave Celtic the lead after 58 minutes with his side's first meaningful attack.

Caldwell sent the ball towards Samaras in the box and the Greek's headed flick was collected by the Australian international.

McDonald spun Broadfoot and sent a flashing shot into the top corner past Allan McGregor.

His goal stunned the majority of the Ibrox crowd who had watched Rangers dominate possession without finding a breakthrough.

Rangers brought on Kyle Lafferty for Charlie Adam and Celtic's Koki Mizuno was withdrawn for Darren O'Dea with just over half an hour remaining.


Celtic appeared content to offer Rangers territorial advantage in an effort to preserve their slender lead and hit Walter Smith's side on the break.

Paul Hartley tried to test McGregor with a shot from distance but the goalkeeper was equal to the task and saved comfortably.

Samaras could have doubled Celtic's tally with five minutes remaining, but McGregor gathered his close-range header.

As the hosts searched for an equaliser, Novo snatched at a chance on the edge of the box, but Celtic held on to the final whistle.

Rangers manager Walter Smith:

"We played very well in the opening period, but when you don't take chances in an Old Firm match you always know something could be round the corner.

"When we lost the goal it meant Celtic could sit back and defend a bit deeper. They did that very well and restricted us to few opportunities. It's disappointing from our own point of view.

"There's no margin for error for us now. Give Celtic credit for their consistency over the season which has led to that. We're disappointed to lose a game we feel we shaded."

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan:

"It's a game where you only need two or three bits of brilliance from somebody, and the rest of it is headers, tackles and closing down. Fortunately, we had a bit of brilliance today.

"There were a lot of good footballers missing from the game. So, it just shows that you can play these games without top passing players.

"Both sides didn't have enough in their lockers to score a lot of goals today.

"It was a terrific goal from Scott. And, when he was needed, Boruc made a great save."

Rangers: McGregor, Whittaker (Novo 74), Broadfoot, Weir, Papac, Davis, Mendes, Ferguson, Adam (Lafferty 62), Miller, Boyd. Subs Not Used: Alexander, McCulloch, Dailly, Niguez, Fleck.

Booked: Adam.

Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel (Wilson 46), Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Mizuno (O'Dea 62), Scott Brown, Hartley, Robson, McDonald (Vennegoor of Hesselink 90), Samaras. Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, Loovens, Crosas, Hutchinson.

Booked: Naylor, Caldwell.

Goals: McDonald 58.

Att: 50,403

Ref: C Thomson

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Celtic's Scott McDonald 8.17 (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.

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see also
SPL as it happened
27 Dec 08 |  Scottish Premier
SPL photo gallery
27 Dec 08 |  Scottish Premier

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