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 Saturday, 14 December, 2002, 16:56 GMT
Ferguson floors Dundee United
Barry Ferguson celebrates opening the scoring for Rangers
Ferguson's free-kick separated the teams at half-time
Rangers 3-0 Dundee United

Rangers extended their lead at the top-of-the-table thanks to a Barry Ferguson hat-trick.

Ferguson opened the scoring in the 13th minute with an exquisite free-kick

The midfielder grabbed his second after the break after a solo breakaway and sealed victory with an 86th minute penalty.

It was a scrappy opening 10 minutes with United doing their best to frustrate Rangers and prevent the loss of an early goal.

The home side's best chance of the opening quarter came when Stephen Hughes' clever ball forward put Shota Arveladze goalside of Mark Wilson.

But the Georgian's left-foot shot was brilliantly tipped round the post by Paul Gallacher.

However there was nothing United could do to stop the Ibrox men from taking the lead after 13 minutes.

Rangers' Michael Mols turns away from Charlie Miller
Michael Mols turns away from Charlie Miller
From a direct free-kick just outside the box Ferguson stepped up to curl a perfectly placed shot past the helpless Gallacher.

Peter Lovenkrands pace took him beyond the United defence five minutes later but he delayed his shot and David McCracken slid in to block.

Then Ronald de Boer sent Fernando Ricksen into the box and after the midfielder had barged his opponent out of the way, Arveladze poked the cross wide at the near post.

Michael Mols teed up Arveladze for a shot from just outside the area but although his sidefooted effort was on target, it lacked the power to trouble Gallacher.

Arveladze threatened again this time turning McCracken twice to get in a shot from just outside the area but Gallacher was behind it.

But United refused to buckle and Derek Lilley had a great chance to level the score.

He met Jim Paterson's cross on the volley but Kevin Muscat managed to get a foot in the way and deflect his effort over the bar.

Lilley was denied again seconds later, this time by a Stefan Klos parry, after Hughes had gifted the ball to the United striker.

At the other end, Arveladze saw a near post effort deflected wide in stoppage time but United finished a lacklustre first-half the stronger team.

United's Jim Hamilton battles for possession with Lorenzo Amoruso
Ferguson tried for another memorable goal as the second half got underway but his chipped effort from the edge of the box was gathered by Gallacher.

But fortune favoured the Ibrox captain in 56 minutes when he caught Wilson in possession in midfield and streaked through the middle before slotting the ball past the United keeper.

Four minutes later Ricksen was sent off when his mis-timed touchline tackle left Miller on the deck.

A chance came substitute Allan Smart's way after 63 minutes when he was put in behind the Rangers defence but when Klos made half a block, Amoruso was first to the loose ball before Smart could complete the job.

Then Lilley saw Klos save a header before Mols blasted over at close range.

Seconds later Arveladze fired wide on the run.

Jim McIntyre followed Ricksen down the tunnel for an early bath 10 minutes from full-time.

And Ferguson completed his hat-trick in 86 minutes, blasting a penalty high past Gallacher after Arveladze was felled in the box.

Rangers: Klos, Muscat, Moore, Amoruso, Ricksen, Hughes, Ferguson, Lovenkrands, de Boer (Malcolm 68), Mols (Nerlinger 79), Arveladze.

Subs Not Used: McGregor, Latapy, Hutton.

Sent Off: Ricksen (60).

Dundee Utd: Gallacher, McCunnie, Wilson, McCraken, Paterson, Easton, Miller, McIntyre, Hamilton, Thompson (Smart 59), Lilley (Carson 67).

Subs Not Used: Combe, Cummings, Duff.

Sent Off: McIntyre (80).

Booked: Lilley, McCunnie.

Attendance: 47,639 Ref: S Dougal (Scotland).

 BBC Scotland's David Begg
"Rangers are five points clear at the top of the table"
 Rangers manager Alex McLeish
"Ferguson played a captain's part... inspirational"
 Dundee Utd manager Paul Hegarty
"We played well in spells"
The SPL season gets under way

Weekend games


Links to more Scot Prem stories are at the foot of the page.

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