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Rangers slip-up at Hibs

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 4 May 2008


Rangers were held to a goalless draw away to Hibernian on Sunday to provide renewed hope to Celtic's Scottish Premier League hopes.

The result means the Ibrox side cut Celtic's lead at the top of the table to seven points.

However, although Walter Smith's Rangers still have three games-in-hand over their Old Firm rivals, the Parkhead side are in an increasingly strong position.

Gordon Strachan's side have only two games remaining while their Glasgow neighbours have a total of seven games to play – including two finals in the Scottish Cup and UEFA Cup.

And the destination of the league title now looks set to be undecided until the final day of the season.

Smith was frustrated with the result but denied his players were beginning to feel the effects of their busy fixture schedule – as they chase a further three trophies to add to their League Cup success.

The Rangers manager said: “There weren't many chances for either side but we finished stronger in the last 30 minutes. We had one or two half chances, although nothing clear-cut, so we're disappointed to have lost out on taking all three points.

“I thought we missed that little bit of spark that we've had in games recently, but I don't think it was fatigue as we ended the game the stronger side. I just think we lacked that little bit of creativity.”

In an uneventful first half neither side had looked likely to break the deadlock until the closing stages.

Rangers were first to seriously threaten in the 38th minute when Steven Davis' cross from the right was met by Daniel Cousin and his downward header was pushed round the post by Hibs goalkeeper Andrew McNeil.

Although the home side had enjoyed most of the possession it was the visitors who were now looking the more likely side to score.

In the 41st minute Rangers Spanish striker Nacho Novo collected Kirk Broadfoot's cross but his shot from 10-yards was brilliantly blocked by Hibs defender Rob Jones.

On the stroke of half-time Hibs were unlucky not to take the lead.

Dean Shiels' cross from the left should have been easily dealt with by Rangers goalkeeper Neil Alexander but he succeeded only in punching it straight at Hibs striker Ross Campbell.

Luckily for the keeper the Hibs youngster did not have time to react and the ball rebounded off his forehead and sailed over the crossbar.

Rangers upped the pace in the second half and Gabon striker Daniel Cousin smashed a left-foot power driver just over from 20-yards in the 52nd minute.

The Ibrox side's captain Barry Ferguson had a great opportunity to open the scoring in the 57th minute when the ball deflected into his path six-yards from goal but his shot from a tight angle was saved by the legs of McNeil.

However, after this initial flurry of activity in front of the Hibs goal the home side battled their way back into the match.

Their Portuguese midfielder Filipe Morais almost scored with a sensational strike from 25-yards in the 62nd minute, which was heading for the roof of the net until McGregor made a fine one-handed save to tip over.

Steven Fletcher was next to test the Rangers goalkeeper with a fierce effort in the 70th minute from 30-yards which Alexander did well to gather to his chest.

At the other end former Hibs midfielder Kevin Thomson came close with a curling free-kick from 20-yards which just missed the target in the 78th minute.

The game was now flowing from end to end and Fletcher again forced Alexander into action with five minutes remaining with a free-kick which the Rangers goalkeeper saved comfortably.

As the seconds ticked away Rangers piled forward to try and snatch all three points.

And in the final minute they almost scored a late winner when Spanish defender Carlos Cuellar beat McNeil to Barry Ferguson's floated free-kick but could only divert the ball over the crossbar from 12-yards.

Hibs' Finnish manager Mixu Paatelainen was happy with the result and his players' performance.

He said: “I thought the boys put everything into the game and we were very positive, passed the ball properly and we certainly had a go.

“The result keeps us in the chase for third place and qualification for the UEFA Cup so we have to be satisfied with that.”


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