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Celtic Old Firm victory keeps SPL title race alive

in Scottish Premier League 27 Apr 2008

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Celtic blasted the Scottish Premier League race wide open with a thrilling 3-2 victory over fierce city rivals Rangers on Sunday.

Although the Ibrox side have three games in hand, Celtic now have a five point advantage at the top of the table and have a realistic chance of securing their third title in a row – when only weeks ago their challenge seemed over.

The Parkhead team's goalscoring heroes were Australian striker Scott McDonald, who grabbed a brace, and Barry Robson, who converted from the penalty spot.

However, they were made to work hard for the win after goals from David Weir and Daniel Cousin had cancelled out McDonald's opener to give Rangers a brief first half lead.

Celtic had opened the scoring in the fourth minute with their first effort on goal.

Andreas Hinkel's long ball forward was headed on by Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and, although appearing to be a yard offside, McDonald raced in on goal, took a touch and lashed low past Rangers' stand-in goalkeeper Neil Alexander.

However, Rangers restored parity in the 17th minute.

Steven Davis' corner was met by veteran defender Weir at the front post and he sent a downward header beyond Celtic's Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc from six-yards.

Celtic almost regained their lead in the 24th minute when Shunsuke Nakamura's curling, left-foot free-kick looked destined for the top corner of the net until Alexander – in for the injured Allan McGregor – made a stunning one-handed save to tip the ball over.

Rangers, though, scored an almost identical goal to their first in the 29th minute.

This time it was Cousin who met Davis' corner at the front post to send a powerful header into the net via the underside of the crossbar.

Only a victory was good enough to keep Celtic in the SPL title race and in the 43rd minute they scored their second to level the match.

Aiden McGeady played a pin-point pass to the feet of McDonald 16-yards from goal and the little Australian cut inside before striking a right-foot shot that took a deflection before looping over Alexander into the net.

At the start of the second half Celtic should have taken the lead for a second time.

Nakamura spotted McDonald's run and played a perfectly weighted pass into his feet but although he was clean through on goal the Australian opted to square for Vennegoor of Hesselink allowing Rangers' full-back Kirk Broadfoot to make a last gasp clearance.

Rangers were forced into a change in the 51st minute when Weir limped off to be replaced by Andy Faye.

Celtic captain Stephen McManus then picked up a strain and was replaced by Darren O'Dea in the 66th minute.

The game was flowing end-to-end in the second half but it was the home side who scored the fifth goal of the match from the penalty spot in the 70th minute.

Paul Hartley's pass put McDonald in on goal but the striker was unceremoniously bundled to the ground by Broadfoot, who was lucky to escape with only a yellow card, and referee Craig Thomson pointed to the spot.

In the last Old Firm game McDonald had missed a penalty and so this time responsibility fell to Robson who confidently drove the ball past Alexander low into the net.

Robson almost scored a second five minutes later when his low, curling corner surprised Alexander and rebounded back off the near post.

Celtic closed out the remaining few minutes surprisingly comfortably.

Rangers' miserably day, meanwhile, was compounded when Steven Whittaker was sent-off in injury time when he picked up a second yellow card for a crude challenge on Nakamura.

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