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Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Saturday, 9 May 2009 14:25 UK

Rangers 1-0 Celtic

By David McDaid

Rangers scorer Steven Davis
Davis' first Old Firm goal was enough for a Rangers win

Rangers took a two-point advantage in the SPL title race with three games to play thanks to Steven Davis' derby winner over Celtic at Ibrox.

As the game was settling after a hectic start Kenny Miller crossed for Davis to score from close range on 37 minutes.

Davis then stopped an equaliser before the break by clearing Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink's header off the line.

Celtic had the better of the second half, but Rangers' Kris Boyd was superbly denied by keeper Artur Boruc.

The visitors began the match with a one-point advantage at the top of the table.

But, despite the stakes in terms of the title race, neither side showed signs of apprehension in the early stages as play raged around the slick Ibrox pitch at an astonishing pace.

The commitment from both teams was exemplified by Nakamura, Pedro Mendes and Vennegoor of Hesselink tracking back to unfamiliar positions deep in their own halves to make tackles and break up play.

And, with less than two minutes on the clock, Celtic's Paul Hartley was cautioned for a challenge on Miller, despite - Darren Fletcher-like - getting a touch on the ball before he took the man.

Celtic were the first to call the opposition keeper into action, when Neil Alexander had to tip an audacious Nakamura free-kick from a tight angle over the bar.


Then, on 20 minutes, Rangers full-back Steven Whittaker whipped in a dangerous cross that foxed Artur Boruc before coming off the upright and the visitors scrambled the ball away to safety.

Celtic's Scott McDonald had a penalty appeal waved away when he went down in the box with Whittaker in close attendance.

Just as the match seemed to be settling, with Celtic enjoying more possession and slowing play down in midfield, Rangers took the lead on 37 minutes.

Miller was the creator, taking the ball away from goal to the bye-line before producing a perfect cut-back across the six-yard box, where Davis beat Shaun Maloney at the back post to slam in his first Old Firm goal past Boruc.

As the visitors pressed to end the half level, scorer Davis turned stopper when he hacked Vennegoor of Hesselink's downward header off the line with Alexander beaten.

Madjid Bougherra tussles with Scott McDonald
Bougherra (left) excelled in defence as Rangers shut out Celtic

Rangers found themselves being pressed deeper into their own half after the restart, with Maloney, ineffectual in his first league start since December, beginning to swing in more crosses on top of Alexander and Gary Caldwell advancing to provide extra support in midfield.

But, for all their possession, Celtic were lucky not to find themselves 2-0 down just before the hour mark.

All it took was a simple turn and through-pass from Miller to Boyd, who skipped past the challenge of O'Dea.

But, with only Boruc to beat, the prolific striker hit his shot straight at the Pole's chest and, minutes later, Boyd fired wide when set up by Davis.

The tempo lifted and the game opened up going into the last 15 minutes and Aiden McGeady - on for Maloney - jinked past a defender to crack a shot off the outside of the post.

But, with David Weir and Bougherra resolute for Rangers in the centre-back positions, Celtic could ill-afford to pass up any glimpse of goal and the Ibrox side recorded what could prove to be a crucial victory in terms of the destination of Scottish Premier League championship.

Rangers: Alexander, Dailly, Bougherra, Weir, Whittaker, Davis, Mendes, Edu, Steven Smith (Lafferty 69), Boyd (McCulloch 85), Miller.
Subs Not Used: McGregor, Novo, Velicka, Fleck, Wilson.

Booked: Steven Smith, Miller, Lafferty.

Goals: Davis 37.

Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Loovens, Caldwell, O'Dea (Naylor 81), Nakamura, Hartley, Crosas, Maloney (McGeady 62), Vennegoor of Hesselink (Samaras 76), McDonald.
Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, Misun, Flood, Robson.

Booked: Hartley, Caldwell, Naylor.

Att: 50,321

Ref: C Thomson

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Rangers' Steven Davis 8.27 (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
Smith wary of Rangers title talk
09 May 09 |  Rangers
Strachan hails players in defeat
09 May 09 |  Celtic
SPL as it happened
09 May 09 |  Scottish Premier

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