Rangers FC have clinched their 54th Scottish league championship – a world record tally – thanks to an emphatic 5-1 win against Kilmarnock FC that gave outgoing manager Walter Smith the perfect send-off.
Rangers travelled to Rugby Park knowing that victory was likely essential, with city rivals Celtic FC just a point behind going into the final round of fixtures. However, a hat-trick from Kyle Lafferty and further strikes from Steven Naismith and Nikica Jelavić ensured Rangers sealed a third consecutive Scottish Premier League crown.
Backed by a massive travelling support, Rangers got off to a blistering start with three goals in the first seven minutes. Lafferty opened the scoring after 46 seconds and Naismith added a second four minutes later, before the Northern Ireland striker put the game almost beyond doubt. Four minutes after the restart, Jelavić curled in a free-kick and Lafferty completed his hat-trick shortly after that, with James Dayton scoring a consolation for the stunned hosts.
Back up the M77, meanwhile, Celtic were taking care of their own business with a comfortable 4-0 home win against Motherwell FC, but it was insufficient to wrest the title away from Rangers, who finished the campaign on 93 points. For Smith, it was the ideal way to bow out after his 618th and final game in charge of Rangers, having secured his tenth title in two spells at the club.
"I'm pleased for every one of the players; they've been brilliant," he said. "I think at the end they deserved it. Obviously, I'm a bit biased but they played exceptionally well. We couldn't have wished for a better start and the standard of the goals was terrific. I don't think you can pick and choose between any of the titles. I'm just delighted that Rangers have managed to win."
Lafferty described his treble-scoring performance as the highlight of his career and dedicated his goals to the outgoing manager. "There's no doubt that this is the highlight of my career so far," he said. "We knew we had to come here and win. I was happy to get the first goal but to get three on the day we won the championship was amazing. Walter allowed me to fulfil my boyhood dream [of playing for Rangers] and I'm delighted to have scored a hat-trick on his last day."
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