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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 November 2007, 14:31 GMT
Falkirk 1-3 Rangers
By David Sharp

Carlos Cuellar is mobbed by teammates after opening the scoring for Rangers
Carlos Cuellar is mobbed by Rangers teammates
Rangers kept up the pressure on rivals Celtic at the top of the SPL with a battling victory in wintry conditions.

Home keeper Tim Krul pulled off a string of outstanding saves as Rangers dominated first-half proceedings.

Carlos Cuellar's 20th minute header gave the visitors a deserved lead with Jean-Claude Darcheville adding a second 10 minutes after the break.

Impressive Falkirk fought back through Pedro Moutinho on the hour but Kris Boyd sealed victory with a late strike.

Rangers manager Walter Smith made two changes to the side beaten 2-0 by Barcelona in the Champions League, with Brahim Hemdani and Charlie Adam dropping out to allow Kevin Thomson and Darcheville to return.

Falkirk, who lost 7-2 at Ibrox in August, were playing for the first time in three weeks.

Captain Steven Thomson returned to the starting line-up in place of Moutinho, who was relegated to the bench.

As the wind swirled round the Falkirk Stadium, both sides, looking ring-rusty after the international break, traded tame early strikes on goal.

The lively Darcheville burst forward to drive an angled shot into the arms of Falkirk keeper Tim Krul before Steven Thomson's long-range effort was gathered at the other end by Allan McGregor.

Rangers settled quicker, forcing Falkirk onto the back foot, and only Krul's heroics denied them an 11th-minute opener.

DaMarcus Beasley's whipped cross from the right was unwittingly headed towards his own net by Thomson and Krul had to claw the ball off the underside of the bar.

The Dutch keeper again bravely scrambled clear on the line minutes later under pressure from Daniel Cousin.

Barry Ferguson then passed up a glorious chance to break the deadlock five minutes later.

Jean-Claude Darcheville makes it 2-0 for Rangers
Darcheville doubled Rangers lead early in the second-half

Darcheville surged down the left and played Ferguson in but the Rangers captain slipped the ball agonisingly past the left-hand post.

The Bairns replied immediately with Graham Barrett's dangerous cut-back cleared by the alert defending of David Weir before Russell Latapy rifled a direct free-kick just over.

But a deserved breakthrough for Rangers came on 20 minutes.

Cuellar connected with Beasley's inswinging corner to loop a beautifully weighted header over the despairing jump of Scott Arfield on the post.

Falkirk should have drawn level minutes into the second-half but Carl Finnigan failed to take advantage of a slip by Cuellar.

The home side were enjoying more possession without threatening McGregor's goal.

And they were hit by a sucker-punch goal after 54 minutes when Sasa Papac sent Lee McCulloch clear down the left.

With the Falkirk defence asleep, McCulloch had plenty of time to reach the touchline and cut the ball back for Darcheville who swept it home from two yards.

But the Bairns refused to buckle and substitute, Moutinho, who moments before had replaced an inneffective Latapy, threw them a lifeline on 61 minutes.

Dean Holden sent a curling free-kick into the Rangers box and the Portugese striker pounced on Darren Barr's knock-on to clip the ball past McGregor from 12 yards.

The goal breathed fresh life into a match that appeared to be over for Falkirk.

McGregor tipped Barrett's acrobatic bicycle kick over the bar with 15 minutes to go to maintain his side's narrow lead as Falkirk pressed for an equaliser.

And with the Bairns on the ascendancy it was McGregor again who kept them out, this time touching a goal-bound header from his own defender Alan Hutton round the post.

But Kris Boyd - a replacement for Darcheville - secured all-three points for Rangers with an injury-time goal after good work from fellow substitute Steven Naismith.


Falkirk: Krul, Aafjes, Holden, Barr, Milne, Cregg, Arfield, Thomson, Latapy (Moutinho 55), Barrett, Finnigan (Higdon 72). Subs Not Used: Olejnik, Allison, Riera, Craig, Scobbie.

Booked: Barr, Milne.

Goals: Moutinho 62.

Rangers: McGregor, Hutton, Papac, Weir, Cuellar, Beasley, Ferguson, Thomson, McCulloch, Darcheville (Boyd 81), Cousin (Naismith 71). Subs Not Used: Carroll, Adam, Whittaker, Lennon, Fleck.

Booked: Beasley, Thomson.

Goals: Cuellar 20, Darcheville 55, Boyd 90.

Att: 6,627

Ref: C Richmond (Scotland).

SEE ALSO
Hughes sees hope despite defeat
24 Nov 07 |  Falkirk


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