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Old Firm Doing Scottish Football Proud

Craig continues our Scottish Premiership coverage with a bit of applause for the Old Firm on their European tour.

Rangers and Celtic were both in European action this week – and both were successful in different ways.

In the Champions’ League, Celtic managed to hold AC Milan to a 0-0 draw at Celtic Park, despite being outplayed for the majority of the game. 38 year-old Paolo Maldini was making his 100th Champions’ League appearance and strolled the game, hardly giving Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink a look-in all night. Former Rangers midfielder Rino Gattuso was booed at every opportunity as expected but put in one of his usual dominant performances. At the other end of the field, Kaka was sublime and 20 year-old Yoann Gourcuff – dubbed the new Zidane – showed flashes of brilliance. However 20 year-old Darren O’Dea, in for the cup-tied Steven Pressley was impressive at the back for Celtic, albeit aided by the profligacy of Alberto Gilardino. Celtic’s had a couple of chances – Lee Naylor curled a 25 yard effort just wide while Shunsuke Nakamura had a couple of free-kicks in dangerous positions which he uncharacteristically failed to convert. Although the result was reasonable, it looks extremely difficult for Celtic to progress now, especially given their shocking away record in the competition – 11 defeats and one draw in 12 matches.

Rangers took on Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the UEFA Cup, after losing a fractious 1st leg 2-1 in Israel. However, Rangers were on top for most of that match, and dominated this one even more, with Hapoel barely threating Rangers’ goal. Barry Ferguson gave Rangers the lead midway through the first half, and a few minutes later the prolific Kris Boyd scored as he always does to make it 2-0. After half-time skipper Barry Ferguson scored his second, but while his team-mates were celebrating, Rangers keeper Alan McGregor was sent off, apparently for violent conduct. Although TV pictures didn’t seem to show anything untoward, the referee claimed that McGregor head-butted a Hapoel player. But even their opponents being reduced to 10 men didn’t prompt the Israelis to try to attack, and substitute keeper Stefan Klos might as well have stayed on the bench. In the 90th minute, Charlie Adam came on as a substitute and instantly found a goal to complete a 4-0 rout. Although Barry Ferguson grabbed 2 goals, Chris Burke was most impressive, mesmerising Hapoel with some excellent dribbling and for once providing the final ball which so often lets him down. The Gers will face Osasuna in the last-16 in what is likely to be a tough tie, but they will feel that they could beat any of the teams left in the competition.

More importantly for Scottish football, the Rangers line-up had 9 Scots, with Nacho Novo and Brahim Hemdani the only foreigners in the side. This is a far cry from the days of Dick Advocaat, when they routinely fielded sides without a single Scot.