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Lafferty helps fire Rangers four points clear of Celtic

Rangers 4 Celtic 2: Steven Naismith scored twice as Rangers drew first blood in this season's Old Firm exchanges by seeing off 10-man Celtic in a thriller at Ibrox.

Naismith's opening goal was cancelled out by Gary Hooper, before Badr El Kaddouri marked his debut in the fixture with a goal.

Nikica Jelavic hauled Rangers level again and Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty also netted before Charlie Mulgrew saw red later on and Naismith had the final say with an injury-time strike.

Gers boss Ally McCoist, who picked up his first Old Firm derby win as Rangers manager, claimed the enthralling victory was not about him.

McCoist said: “It's not about me — it's about the players and getting the three points for the fans. That's the most important thing.

“You can prepare and do your planning before the game and hope things go to plan but the most important thing today was winning the game and I thought we deserved it.”

The win moved the Scottish champions four points clear of their Glasgow rivals at the summit of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

But McCoist added: “I've been around the block in Old Firm games long enough to know that it's swings and roundabouts. Today's three points were well-earned and they are a big three points — but no more than that.”

Celtic had headed into the break with the advantage thanks to an uncharacteristic error from goalkeeper McGregor, who allowed El Kaddouri's long-ranger to slip through his legs.

But McCoist (pictured with his assistant Kenny McDowell) says the blunder simply acted as further motivation for his team as a whole.

He said: “I had no job at all lifting Allan McGregor. Allan McGregor is an absolutely top class goalkeeper.

“You can make an argument for him going a long, long way to us winning the title last year.

“If anything, I said to the boys, maybe we were due Allan a wee turn in the second half and I'd have to say that the boys returned one or two favours today for Allan.

“Out of all the players I'm especially pleased for Allan because he doesn't like losing at the best of times and he wouldn't have liked losing today after losing that goal.”

McCoist also had words of sympathy for Mulgrew, as he left the field and also in the press conference. He said: “Of course I felt for him. The one thing about Charlie Mulgrew is that he is a totally committed and fair player.

“I haven't seen the incident again but I guarantee that he was going for the ball.

“I just said he was unlucky and that I felt he was going for the ball. It's as simple as that.

“Obviously it didn't help him because he was going off the park but Charlie is an honest lad so if the sending off was deserved he was probably unlucky in an attempt to go for the ball.”

Mulgrew was the first name in referee Craig Thomson's book when he was cautioned after 16 minutes for a late challenge on Naismith. Six minutes later, Rangers opened the scoring in style when Kelvin Wilson attempted to hook a Lafferty cross to safety. His clearance fell to the feet of Naismith, who left Fraser Forster with no chance with an unstoppable right-footed shot from just inside the box.

Lafferty then had the ball in the back of the net but only after being ruled offside when running onto a pass from Steven Davis.

Celtic were back on level terms with 34 minutes gone, with Hooper producing a lovely finish from 10 yards.

The first two goals were all about fantastic finishes but the third came courtesy of a huge gaffe from McGregor.

The Rangers keeper looked set to block a long-range attempt from El Kaddouri, only to allow the effort to slip between his legs and over the line.

Rangers emerged for the second half determined to haul themselves back into the game and Davis was denied by the woodwork when his shot from 25 yards crashed off the crossbar.

Lafferty was then denied by the offside flag for the second time in the match, before Jelavic added his name to the scoresheet with 55 minutes gone when he met a Davis cross and headed past Forster from 10 yards.

Rangers pushed forward in search of more goals and Lafferty conspired to pass up two great opportunities, firstly sending a header over from six yards before failing to capitalise on an El Kaddouri error by firing wide of the gaping net.

However, Rangers reclaimed their lead after 67 minutes and it was Lafferty, stabbing home from close range after seeing his initial effort blocked.

Mulgrew was dismissed with 15 minutes to go for a challenge on Davis and Rangers made the most of their numerical advantage as Naismith put the gloss on the win with a left-footed shot in injury time.

Belfast Telegraph


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