International Soccer
By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor - Archive - Email
A day to savor for Rangers
It was hard to tell that the game had no real title implications.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There hasn't been much to smile about over the past month for anyone associated with Rangers.

The club's financial woes have been well documented and the team has plunged into a poor run of form that saw them lose three of their first four games after entering administration.

But the perfect tonic to pull the club out of the abyss was offered up on Sunday in the form of the Old Firm derby.

Nothing gets the blood going around Ibrox like the sight of those green-and- white-striped Celtic kits. And as if Rangers needed any more incentive to stick it to their Glasgow rivals, the visitors were attempting to clinch the title on enemy soil.

Most Old Firm showdowns take place with the two combatants separated by a few points and they are usually crucial in the race for the trophy.

But this one saw Celtic bring a 21-point advantage into Sunday's match with Rangers having been docked 10 points for entering administration.

However, over the course of 90 minutes on Sunday, it was hard to tell that the game had no real title implications.

Both sets of supporters were as passionate as ever, goals were still celebrated with the same vigor and there were more than a few tasty challenges flying around. Basically, it was everything you would expect from a match pitting the two Glasgow titans.

Rangers striker Andrew Little certainly felt no differently and proved it by coming off the bench in the second half and scoring a goal on his first touch. He then allowed himself to get a bit caught up in the moment after he saw the ball hit the net.

"When I was sitting on the bench, I was thinking about how good it would be to score and I was planning my celebration, but I think I just went mad when the ball went in," Little said.

"It was unbelievable and it's still sinking in."

The match had a bit of everything from brilliant individual goals like the one scored by Rangers striker Sone Aluko to put the hosts up 1-0 after 11 minutes, to three players receiving red cards and Celtic boss Neil Lennon being banished from the sideline.

In the end, Rangers came out 3-2 winners, preventing Celtic from clinching the title and also from losing for the fourth straight time at home, which has never happened in the 140-year history of the club.

"Every single player just showed they didn't want to be beaten," Little acknowledged. "That really came through and we had a lot of pride.

"We used all the bad stuff which has happened to us to our advantage and it was absolutely superb. The attitude from every single one of our players was unreal."

In addition to having 10 points taken from the team in the standings, which effectively brought an end to any hopes Rangers had of defending its title, the players each took pay cuts, with some of the higher-earning ones having their salary cut in half.

The club is in the midst of trying to find a buyer to help alleviate the crushing financial crisis, while the rest of the season will be spent trying to fend off Motherwell and hold onto second place rather than chasing down another championship.

A summer of uncertainty awaits as the club could be forced to sell off a few of its better players in an effort to regain some financial stability.

And while this will be a season that most of the club's fans will be eager to forget, especially when Celtic wins the league in the next week or two, Rangers fans can at least take solace in the fact that it didn't happen on their ground on Sunday.

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