Scottish champions Rangers FC won a stormy first Old Firm derby of the season 3-1 as Celtic FC finished with nine men after seeing Alan Thompson and captain Neil Lennon dismissed.
Goals from Dado Pršo and Thomas Buffel gave Rangers a comfortable lead and although Shaun Maloney pulled one back with a penalty four minutes from time, Nacho Novo responded with another spot-kick to give Alex McLeish his first win against former Aberdeen FC team-mate and close friend Gordon Strachan.
"We had the extra man for a long period of the game and that certainly gave us a good advantage," said McLeish. "The last few minutes were interesting but Dado has had another terrific game and won the penalty for us at the other end." However, victory came at a price as captain Barry Ferguson picked up an ankle knock which makes him a doubtful starter for the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round second leg tie against Anorthosis Famagusta FC on Wednesday at Ibrox - with Rangers currently 2-1 up.
Buffel passed a late fitness test to take his place in the Rangers midfield alongside Alex Rae who deputised for the suspended Fernando Ricksen, while Marvin Andrews was restored to the centre of defence. For Celtic, Strachan paired Craig Beattie with John Hartson in attack leaving Polish striker Maciej Zurawski on the bench.
The home side started the better in a frenetic opening period which saw John Hartson and Julien Rodriguez booked, but Celtic were reduced to ten men on 23 minutes when Thompson was red carded for a late challenge on Novo. Dianbobo Balde missed a great chance to put Celtic in front on the half-hour mark, heading Shunsuke Nakamura's corner over from six metres, as the visitors began to find their way back into the game. But against the run of play Rangers broke the deadlock on 34 minutes, Pršo latching on to a long ball from Andrews before volleying past Artur Boruc.
McLeish introduced Peter Løvenkrands for Rae at half-time as Rangers sought to capitalise on their one-man advantage and they doubled their lead six minutes after the re-start when Buffel burst between two defenders before slotting the ball into the net. Strachan immediately sacrificed Nakamura for Shaun Maloney as they tried to get back into the game and the Scotland Under-21 striker gave Celtic hope with four minutes left, scoring from the penalty spot after being brought down by Ian Murray.
However, Rangers promptly broke to the other end and were awarded a penalty of their own following Stilian Petrov's challenge on Pršo. Novo converted to give Rangers all three points before Lennon was sent-off for confronting the referee after the final whistle. The win meant that Rangers briefly shared top position with Heart of Midlothian FC but the Tynecastle club restored their three-point advantage a few hours later with a 2-0 victory against Aberdeen. Celtic, already out of Europe, lie an unfamiliar third, five points adrift of Hearts.
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