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Page last updated at 20:47 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 21:47 UK

Celtic 2-1 Rangers

David Weir and Gary Caldwell clash after the final whistle
The match was marred by a scuffle on the final whistle

By Colin Moffat

Celtic's Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink scored an injury-time header to narrow the gap on Rangers to one point.

Shunsuke Nakamura fired Celtic ahead with a wonderful swerving shot, while Nacho Novo's strike levelled.

Carlos Cuellar was sent off for handling a net-bound Nakamura shot but the injured Allan McGregor was able to save Scott McDonald's spot-kick.

But the Celtic striker struck late on, while David Weir and Gary Caldwell saw red cards after a full-time melee.

A tumultuous evening ended with an ugly scuffle involving several players and Scotland colleagues Weir and Caldwell appeared to exchange blows.

Celtic captain Stephen McManus was also shown a yellow card after a match which has breathed new life into the title race.

With Rangers having played two games less than their closest challengers, Walter Smith's men remain strong favourites.

However, Celtic will take great heart from a stirring win and the teams meet again at Celtic Park on 27 April.

The game opened in typically frantic fashion, with the home side looking particularly anxious.

The opening 15 minutes were notable only for a series of bruising challenges, with Celtic's Paul Hartley picking up the game's first yellow card for a late lunge at Lee McCulloch.

However, after winning a sequence of corners, Celtic took the lead in spectacular fashion.

Nakamura, criticised for an anonymous display in the previous Old Firm clash, picked up a pass from Caldwell and the ball sat up nicely for the Japanese star to lash home a swerving strike from 25 yards.

McGregor had no chance at stopping the goal but the Rangers keeper did not look too convincing when he awkwardly pushed away a fierce cross from McDonald that may have been creeping in at the near post.

Rangers were struggling to get hold of the ball and when the visitors did get a sight of goal Jean-Claude Darcheville blazed a long-range shot high over the crossbar.

On the stroke of half time, Darcheville scampered on to a Steven Whittaker pass but his scuffed shot hit the covering Lee Naylor and found the side-netting.

Novo replaced defender Kirk Broadfoot at the break and the little striker wasted no time in making his mark.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

With the whirlwind pace showing no signs of abating, Novo collected a Whittaker pass and sped into the penalty box before rifling a low, angled strike into the far corner of the net.

Celtic responded with a flurry of attacks, with Rangers defenders throwing themselves into blocks in and around their penalty area.

On 70 minutes, the match took another dramatic turn when Cuellar was sent off for pushing Nakamura's shot onto the crossbar.

McDonald stepped up to take the resulting penalty kick but McGregor, who was limping with an ankle problem, sprung to his left and tipped the ball on to the post before gathering.

McGregor was strapped up but only lasted another six minutes and had to be replaced by Neil Alexander.

Celtic poured forward in search of a winner and were rewarded in the 93rd minute when Vennegoor of Hesselink headed home from McDonald's nodded set-up.


Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor (Wilson 46), Nakamura, Hartley, Robson (Samaras 75), McGeady, McDonald, Vennegoor of Hesselink. Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, McGowan, Sno, Donati, Balde.

Booked: Hartley, Vennegoor of Hesselink.

Goals: Nakamura 20, Vennegoor of Hesselink 90.

Rangers: McGregor (Alexander 77), Broadfoot (Novo 46), Cuellar, Weir, Papac, Dailly, Whittaker, Ferguson, Davis, McCulloch, Darcheville (Cousin 83). Subs Not Used: Boyd, Naismith, Furman, McMillan.

Sent Off: Cuellar (70).

Booked: Broadfoot, Naismith, Weir.

Goal: Novo 55.

Att: 58,964

Ref: K Clark

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Rangers' Nacho Novo 7.71 (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
Highlights: Nakamura's goal
16 Apr 08 |  Scotland
Late goal hard to take for Smith
16 Apr 08 |  Rangers
Celtic v Rangers photos
16 Apr 08 |  Scotland
Celtic 2-1 Rangers as it happened
16 Apr 08 |  Scottish Premier


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