SPL: RANGERS 6 DUNFERMLINE 1: Date 25/05/03
Having the started the season watching Celtic unfurl the league flag, Dunfermline finished it at the Rangers championship party which was on hold until an Arteta penalty made it 6-1 and cancelled out any threat of Celtic clinching the title at Rugby Park.
This was not Dunfermline lying down. It was an all effort performance and when they equalised at 1-1 there was real belief from the 49731 crowd that the Pars were not here just to pass their Sunday afternoon.
The Pars had a go and showed much aggression in an effort to preserve some pride.
Craig Brewster was the sole attacker as the visitors strung five men across the back and dropped Stevie Crawford back into a four man midfield.
As Dunfermline travelled to the west end of Glasgow on Sunday the blue and orange bedecked Rangers faithful were already partying in the streets. The Fifers were likely to gain as many points as the UK entry in the previous night’s Eurovision Song Contest and as the BBC broadcast both the Rangers and Celtic matches live, viewers would be able to make up their minds whether there were any "conspiracy" theories around.
Just like in Eurovision Greece gave Cyprus maximum points and vice versa there would be a test to the emotions and political correctness of former Gers Barry Nicholson, Gus MacPherson and Scott Wilson. Would the Govan lad Jimmy Calderwood and his ex Ranger Assistant Jimmy Nicholl really enjoy being the reason Celtic won the flag?
In the Directors Box too was it possible that John Yorkston could win back the affections of at least one half of the Old Firm?
Dunfermline’s record against Rangers is deplorable. No wins in 18 Scottish Premier League encounters. no victory at Ibrox since 1972 and 17 goals already conceded to Rangers this season alone. So with goals and not points all important the debate of radio phone ins was about to be settled. Would goalscoring demands produce more entertaining football?
Rangers kicked off towards the Broomloan Stand and they got off to the dream start scoring the first goal in just 145 seconds. The ball was played through the middle from halfway by Lorenzo Amoruso. De Boer controlled the ball and sent a fine ball to Caniggia on the edge of the box. The Argentinian’s pass to Mols looked to be too far behind Michel MOLS but he dragged the ball on to his right foot to turn Gus MacPherson’s attention. The shot beat Derek Stillie’s dive and spin in off the left goalpost.
In the 4th minute de Boer had a great chance to put Rangers two up from another Caniggia cross when his diving header in the middle of the six yard box was sent wide of the left goalpost. In between the Rangers sticks Stefan Klos eventually got his first touch when a Craig Brewster prod through the left channel went too far for David Grondin.
Ibrox was a cauldron of noise as the pre match party fever was ignited by the performance on the park. But just when the party looked like starting 80 minutes prematurely Jason DAIR struck to silence Ibrox and cast the nephew of the late great Ranger Jim Baxter in the role of partypooper. The goal will rate as one of the best Pars goals of the season. coming from a Stevie Crawford ball wide right to Lee Bullen whose first time return was played off Brewster for Jason to shoot from the edge of the D.
Two minutes later a Dair cross into the box was nervously defended and there was a spell where Nicholson, Brewster and Dair were allowed plenty of time to strike the ball about. The confidence took a severe dip however when Ricksen raced through on the right wing. Before he could cut the ball back Gary Mason tried to blasted the ball put but the ball rebounded off Ricksen into the path of Claudio CANIGGIA who sidefooted the ball into the net. 2-1 then with 16 minutes gone and no score at Kilmarnock.
The emotional rollercoaster for Rangers fans kicked in two minutes later while de Boer’s ball to Mols produced a drive that the Pars blocked out Celtic took the lead at Rugby Park. MacPherson and Mason closed out Arteta on the right side of the penalty box and there were appeals for a penalty.
Stillie then dived out to clutch a Caniggia cross and at the other end Barry Nicholson wasted a 30 yard free kick. Meanwhile the crowd amused themselves celebrating a Kilmarnock goal which turned out to be ficticious. The Pars were continually under pressure and in the 25th minute Arveladze’s ball to Mols was deflected off Gus MacPherson allowing a shot from the Dutchman that Stillie stopped to be booted away by David Grondin.
Rangers did go 3-1 ahead when Amoruso chased a ball that looked destined to go out for a goal kick on the left. Doing well to keep the ball in the Rangers captain then evaded Nicholson’s challenge to send over a ball that ARVELADZE sent past Stillie with a delft glancing header from the edge of the six yard box.
De Boer sent through Mols again soon after but Stillie was out well to save. Then when Caniggia and Mason tumbled on the left side of the box referee Stuart Dougall awarded an indirect free kick which was quickly taken and equally quickly met by Amoruso but again Stillie was good enough.
David Grondin had two attempts to send in testing balls but both were blocked by Amoruso. Five minutes from the interval Crawford’s ball to Bullen on the right was headed towards the Rangers penalty spot but Moore headed away before Brewster could get to it.
In the 42nd minute Gary Mason sent Brewster through the middle after he had won possession off de Boer. As Amoruso backed off him though the veteran striker was forced to shoot from too far out and Klos gathered easily. News of a second Celtic goal subdued the party spirit and then in the two minutes added at the end of the first half Mols threatened from a run down the right. His ball over reached de Boer but his lay off to Caniggia was intercepted by Chris McGroarty who was quick to clear. At the start of the second half Gary Dempsey was brought on for David Grondin with Jason Dair switching to the left. Rangers introduced Neil McCann for Caniggia and within 40 seconds he darted down the left wing to send over a cross that was too deep and deceived the awaiting de Boer and Mols. Wilson conceded a free kick just 25 yards out in taking down Mols. All 11 Dunfermline players were in the penalty box but Stillie stopped Amoruso’s shot.
When Dempsey was fouled by McCann Bullen swung the free kick into the penalty area. Brewster knocked it down in the direction of Dair but Amoruso hooked it away. Then in 51 minutes Moore picked out de Boer on the edge of the penalty box and amidst questions over the illegal use of an arm the Dutchman slipped the ball agonisingly outside the right goalpost.
Then the news came through of a penalty goal from Thompson for Celtic that took them to the top of the table. Celtic’s goal difference being 71 versus Rangers +70. A shot from Arveladze hit off McGroarty’s hand and again Stuart Dougall waved away the claims. Rangers forced corners but no goals and the faces on Rangers fans around the press box were ashen.
Then a MacPherson back pass was deflected off a Rangers player and Derek Stillie picked up the ball. Amazingly the referee awarded an indirect free kick right in front of the Pars goal. In his protest MacPherson was yellow carded for pushing the referee. Ricksen rolled the ball to Amoruso and the Italian fired the ball over the crossbar as the 11 man defence raced out.
Stephen Thompson was brought on for Mols but it was the Pars who again threatened. Brewster and Crawford burst out of defence and then slipped the ball to Bullen whose cross fell behind Dair and Dempsey but Brewster stepped in to force a fine save out of Klos diving to his right.
Celtic had been top of the table for just nine minutes when de BOER rose to head a McCann cross past Stillie from six yards to make it 4-1. The goal was disappointing but hardly unexpected given the amount of pressure that Rangers had exerted. Three minutes later McCann beat Mason twice on the left before executing a deadly pass into the six yard box that Lee Bullen played off THOMPSON into the net. Rangers 100th goal of their season and a goal that meant Celtic (or Dunfermline) had to score twice.
Another McCann cross was headed over by Amoruso on 74 minutes and at the other end Nicholson shot high over the crossbar from 30 yards. Pars subs Walker and McGarty came on for MacPherson and McGroarty but it was still one way traffic towards Stillie. Numan’s sortie down the left brought another cross that Lee Bullen in the Pars defence hoofed away.
As Dunfermline came forward Dair picked out Brewster and the return ball to him was well cut out by Craig Moore. Back in Ayrshire Thompson missed a Celtic penalty and Stillie held a de Boer header from a McCann corner. But then Petrov score at Rugby Park to make goal difference the same.
There was increasing amount of Dunfermline pressure as Rangers walked a title tightrope. One goal at either stadium could alter the destination of the title. There was only one minute left when Thompson headed a Numan cross into the arms of yellow shirted Stillie off the angle of left post and bar!. On 90 minutes a Mason cross from the right was met by Ricksen and Moore but Crawford could not take advantage and Rangers got it away.
Three minutes of added time had been indicated by Dougie Smith the fourth official and with half of that gone Mark McGarty fouled McCann as he sprinted through to take a return from de Boer 15 yards out and the referee awarded Rangers a penalty.
Michel Arteta right footed it low and hard into the bottom right corner as the 93rd minute clocked up. The rest is history. Dunfermline made a swift exit and after a minute the party started when the Celtic match finished 4-0.
Dunfermline tried hard and at times played some good football. The tactics were going to be impossible at Ibrox today. This was a one off and there was only going to be one winner. Gus MacPherson’s last appearance for the Pars was one of his best, Gary Mason did a good job in closing out de Boer and Jason Dair did his prospects a lot of good with a great goal and some good positive play.
Yes, the Pars finished fifth but the final day of the season demonstrated the gulf that really exists between the Old Firm and the rest. Another season gone but Jimmy Calderwood will have some positives to take from it which no doubt we will list in the coming weeks.
DUNFERMLINE: Derek Stillie. Gus MacPherson (Scott Walker 60), Lee Bullen, Scott Wilson, Jason Dair. Barry Nicholson, Gary Mason, David Grondin (Gary Dempsey HT), Chris McGroarty (Mark McGarty 77). Craig Brewster, Stevie Crawford
SUBS NOT USED: Marco Ruitenbeek, Scott McNicoll
STRIP: Home Black and White
SCORER: Dair (11)
YELLOW CARDS: MacPherson(59), Wilson (85), Bullen (90)
RANGERS: Stefan Klos: Fernando Ricksen, Craig Moore, Lorenzo Amoruso, Artur Numan, Barry Ferguson, Mikel Arteta, Claudio Caniggia (Neil McCann HT). Michael Mols (Steven Thompson 63), Ronald de Boer, Shota Arverladze
SUBS NOT USED: Allan McGregor, Bob Malcolm, Steven MacLean
SCORERS: Mols (3), Caniggia (16), Arverladze (30), de Boer (65), Thompson (67), Arteta (93 pen)
YELLOW CARD: Ferguson (84)
REFEREE: Stuart Dougal
WEATHER: Sunny spells, 17C