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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 November, 2003, 16:52 GMT
Rangers struggle to beat Thistle
Mikel Arteta celebrates the first of his two goals
Mikel Arteta celebrates the first of his two goals
Rangers 3-1 Partick Thistle

Rangers huffed and puffed their way to an unconvincing victory over the league's bottom club, who more than matched their opponents for much of the game.

They were given the perfect start by Mikel Arteta who curled home a free kick early on.

But Thistle went on to dominate the first half and were unlucky not to equalise.

Michael Mols hit a superb second for Rangers and Arteta added a third from the penalty spot before James Grady pulled a late goal back for the Jags.

Rangers enjoyed most of the early possession and an early charge by Peter Lovenkrands was halted by illegal means, giving the home side a free kick just outside the box, despite fierce protests for offside against Mols by the Thistle defence.

From the set-piece, Arteta curled a beautiful effort over the wall and in off the underside of Kenny Arthur's bar to give Rangers an eighth-minute lead.

After 19 minutes, Thistle passed up an excellent chance of an equaliser when Jamie Mitchell burst through on goal, but his attempt was touched wide by Stefan Klos, although referee John Rowbotham gave a goal kick.

John Paul McBride fired a free kick over the bar as Thistle stepped up the pressure, and on 27 minutes James Grady had a shot from 22 yards turned round the post by Klos.

Six minutes later, Grady watched his glancing header creep narrowly wide of Klos' post as the frustration of the Rangers support grew as they watched their side out-played by the team at the bottom of the league.

Alex McLeish was clearly not impressed either as he brought Shota Arveladze on for Egil Ostenstad with eight minutes left in the first half.

Mikel Arteta scores his second goal from the spot
Mikel Arteta scores his second goal from the spot
However, Rangers' ineptitude was forgotten in the 40th minute when Michael Ball picked out the run of Mols and the Dutchman took a touch before lashing a left-foot volley past Arthur and into the net.

Christian Nerlinger should have made it three four minutes later when Zurab Khizanishvili found Mols who cut the ball back into the path of the German, but with his weaker right foot, he sliced the ball high and wide.

Nerlinger was forced to exit the play on the stroke of half time, with Stephen Hughes coming on, meaning Rangers had used all their subs after Khizanishvili had earlier replaced the injured Fernando Ricksen.

The second half started uneventfully. Arteta attempted a repeat of his earlier success from a dead-ball situation just outside the Thistle box after 71 minutes, but on this occasion his effort was marginally too high.

Rangers won a penalty when Lovenkrands went down in the area under Jean-Yves Anis' challenge, although the Dane appeared to make the most of it as the Thistle defence were quick to point out, but Arteta showed them no sympathy in adding his second goal of the day.

Grady grabbed a deserved consolation goal with eight minutes remaining when he turned Hughes in the box before prodding the ball beyond Klos.

Khizanishvili flashed a shot across goal and narrowly wide but any further goals would have been rough justice for Thistle.

Rangers: Klos, Ricksen (Khizanishvili 19), Berg, Moore, Ball, Capucho, Arteta, Nerlinger (Hughes 45), Lovenkrands, Ostenstad (Arveladze 36), Mols.

Subs Not Used: McGregor, Vanoli.

Booked: Moore, Ball.

Partick: Arthur, Lilley (Anis 74), Murray, Whyte, Milne, Mitchell, Rowson, McBride (Gemmill 70), Fleming (Andy Ross 62), Grady, Waddell.

Subs Not Used: Mikkelsen, Madaschi.

Booked: Lilley, Fleming, Arthur, Murray, Mitchell.

Att: 49,551

Ref: J Rowbotham

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