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Rangers see red as Celtic´s football victory heats up Premier League race

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 16 Apr 2008

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Red cards could yet have an impact upon a title race reinvigorated by Celtic's dramatic 2-1 Scottish Premier League victory over leaders and arch-rivals Rangers at Parkhead.

Wednesday's typically fiery Glasgow derby between the Old Firm wasn't settled until Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink scored a late winner deep into stoppage time.

Rangers, already a man down after Carlos Cuellar had been sent off for deliberate handball, then saw David Weir red-carded after the final whistle in the tunnel, along with Celtic's Gary Caldwell, after players from both sides squared up to one another.

Second-placed Celtic, bidding for a third straight title, moved to within a point of Rangers but the table-toppers still have two games in hand over the Hoops and that could yet prove decisive.

Both managers insisted they were unaware of the mass brawl although Celtic boss Gordon Strachan, not for the first time, found a colourful way of saying he hadn't seen anything.

“I've not got a clue what happened,” said former Scotland midfielder Strachan. “For me to comment on something I don't know anything about, would be like me talking about politics. I never saw anything there.”

While it seemed everyone else at Parkhead was caught up in the emotion of the game Strachan and Rangers counterpart Walter Smith tried to put it into some kind of perspective.

“All the result does is make us feel better about ourselves that we've won the game,” Strachan insisted. “We have five games left but I don't feel as if winning them all will guarantee the title.

“After the Motherwell defeat I was saying we needed to win the last seven games to make it exciting and I think that's still the same.”

Smith was also adamant the result did not alter the task facing his side, and took a swipe at those who had written the league race off before Wednesday's match.

“In the last few weeks people have been saying the Celtic manager should get the sack and that the league title is over, then one win changes everything.

“Now they're saying the league is under threat from Celtic so they're going to have to make up their minds.

“I've always said there is a lot of football still to be played but no-one wanted to believe me.

“My feelings about the league are exactly the same as they were before the game. Obviously we wanted to do well on Wednesday and near the end it looked as if we were going to get a result which would have helped us towards the championship.

“But no-one at Rangers expected to win the league without having to experience some disappointments on the way.”

Celtic had taken a deserved lead in the 20th minute when Japan international Shunsuke Nakamura's spectacular left-foot shot from 35 yards curled away from Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor into the top corner of the net.

But in the 55th minute Rangers's half-time substitute Nacho Novo levelled with a fine finish from a tight angle.

In the 69th minute Celtic were denied a second when Rangers' Spanish defender Cuellar handled Nakamura's goal-bound shot on the line.

Referee Kenny Clark pointed to the penalty spot and showed Cuellar a straight red card.

However, Australian Scott McDonald, Celtic's top scorer, spurned the opportunity to give his side the lead, when his weak effort was touched on to the post by McGregor.

But in the 93rd minute Celtic scored a sensational winner.

Caldwell flighted a cross into the box, McDonald headed the ball across the face of goal and Vennegoor of Hesselink nodded home from close range.

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