Rangers moved two points clear in the SPL title race with a 1-0 victory over Celtic at Ibrox.

A first-half strike from Steven Davis was enough to separate the sides in a tight encounter that ensures the championship will go down to the wire.

Celtic travelled across the city without Scott Brown and Stephen McManus for the crucial match, but the big shock was Shaun Maloney’s inclusion at the expense of Aiden McGeady.

Rangers were lined-up as expected and the match started in the usual Old Firm manner- edgy, tight and full of passion.

This was demonstrated by the fact that Paul Hartley was booked with only two minutes on the clock when he clattered Kenny Miller.

The first chance of the game fell the way of the visitors with Shunsuke Nakamura calling Neil Alexander into action with a smart free kick after 16 minutes.

Four minutes later it was Rangers’ opportunity to go close when Steven Whittaker bent a wicked cross into the box that evaded everyone, including Artur Boruc, before smashing off the post.

There was very little to separate the two sides and it was Rangers who took the lead when Davis finished beyond Boruc.

A long ball forward found Kenny Miller and the striker turned before hitting the by-line to cross to the back post.

Davis was able to time his run perfectly and lost Shaun Maloney to slide in to bundle the ball past the out-of-position goalkeeper.

But after being the hero at one end of the pitch the Northern Ireland international was the savior with a minute left of the half.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink met Nakamura’s corner with a brilliant header that defeated Alexander, but Davis was on the line and cleared the danger to maintain the advantage before the interval.

The former PSV Eindhoven striker was looking the most dangerous player in hoops with the first chance of the second half coming to him.

Vennegoor of Hesselink was picked out by an Andreas Hinkel cross but his header was well held by Alexander.

With an hour on the clock Kris Boyd should have sealed the victory for Walter Smith’s side.

The forward capitalized on a slip by Gary Caldwell to run in one-on-one with Boruc, but he simply shot at the stopper.

Celtic needed a goal and were risking conceding another as they tried to stretch Rangers.

But only some great defending from Glenn Loovens to deflect wide a Boyd shot from inside the six-yard-box kept The Bhoys in the game for the final 20 minutes.

Gordon Strachan sent for reinforcements for the closing stages with Georgios Samaras and Aiden McGeady coming into the game, and the latter was unlucky not to strike an equalizer.

Some neat passing play worked the ball to the Ireland international in the box, but after a neat twist his right-footed shot could only rustle the side-netting.

Marc Crosas and Samaras both had half-chances as the match reached the final stages, but neither could even hit the target as they searched for the priceless equalizer.

But despite throwing Celtic throwing everything they could muster at the home side, it was Rangers who triumphed to move into pole position in The SPL.

 

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