SPL v Rangers
RANGERS 3 DUNFERMLINE 0 Date: 23/11/02
Fixture: BOS Premier League
Attendance: 48431, Kick Off: 15:00
The Old Firm bogey continued at Ibrox with Dunfermline competing for 59 minutes before hitting self destruct and blowing any hopes they could have had after a first half full of merit. Afterwards Rangers manager Alex McLeish described their game as one of their "best performances of the season". The Pars made it difficult for his team but in the end despite a huge effort the trip back to Fife carried no points.
Dunfermline made two changes for their trip to Govan. Gus McPherson returned to defence in place of Chris McGroarty and Gary Dempsey replaced Sean Kilgannon while Derek Stillie retained his starting slot between the sticks.
Rangers without Amoruso did have Craig Moore back but Maurice Ross was out following his injury on international duty in Portugal in midweek.
The Pars kicked off towards the Copeland Road stand on a perfect afternoon for football. Rangers had the most of the early possession and Derek Stillie`s first touch was a bye kick in the third minute. Four minutes later Gary Dempsey swung the ball out to the left wing where Jason Dair received and headed goalwards. Jason got a shot in but it was blocked.
Rangers created a good chance in the 9th minute when Neil McCann sent in one of his trademark crosses for Fernando Ricksen at the far post. Stillie looked as though he had it covered despite the Dutchman diverting the ball just outside the keeper`s left hand post.
Crawford almost got in for a close in effort after Craig Brewster crossed from the left side but Craig Moore denied Stevie with a fine hook out of danger. Rangers were enjoying more of the possession with Dunfermline trying hard to hold on to the ball and stop the wayward passing to the opposition.
The Gers should have gone ahead in the 20th minute when a real mix up inside the Pars six yard box saw Arveladze headed against the right post, Mols followed up with a shot that Stillie blocked and Skerla cleared. The home support were stunned and puzzled questions were asked. Well maybe not quite so politely!
Dunfermline dealt easily with a Rangers free kick two minutes later and the confidence visibly grew. Captain Nipper laced a good ball out left for Dair who having beaten two men found Brewster on the edge of the box. The big striker played in Stevie Crawford before failing to get in a serious strike. Crawford was left scurrying after the break of the ball to no avail.
At the other end Dunfermline lived dangerously as Arveladze and Mols contrived to miss chances but Crawford almost took advantage on the counterattack. Running from midway inside his own half cut the ball back from the byeline on the left in the direction of Gary Dempsey but the home defence were back to cut out the ball.
Lee Bullen provided a great ball for Crawford who was picking his spot when Ricksen arrived from behind to rob him of the chance. The Ibrox faithful were growing impatient with their heroes as Dunfermline played out of their skins, closing Rangers down and winning more possession. Crawford upset the home fans further with a good cross from the left; Scott Thomson had a shot that was deflected for the visitors forst corner of the match in 32 minutes but the corner was overhit.
Ricksen perpetuated the Rangers tale of woe with a strike high into the Broomloan stand. Moore and Ricksen combined i an attempt to break the deadlock before the interval when they provided the opportunity for Arveladze but he pulled his shot wide right.
The second half resumed with more of the same. Rangers pressed, Dunfermline defended. Mols ball to Arveladze deep inside the right side of the penalty box required the services of both Wilson and Stillie to stop him with the former Rangers defender ending up falling over the advancing keeper.
It was Rangers who almost caught the Fifers on the break when in the 50th minute Andrius Skerla`s head missed a bouncing ball just inside the Rangers half and both Arveladze and Mols led the charge on the Psars goal. Nicholson and McPherson dived in with some dangerous tackles inside the box before Scott Wilson cleared the threat.
Four minutes later Mols turned Skerla inside the penalty box but fortunately for the Pars hit high over the bar.
Jimmy Calderwood decided to go for a tactical substitution in the 57th minute introducing Sean Kilgannon for Gary Dempsey. There was a severe warning for the Pars right away when Fernando Ricksen deflected in a Arthur Numan shot but the referee decided the Rangers player was offside.
Stevie Crawford brought some welcome relief to the defence taking the ball to the bye line on the left side of the goal and chipping a cross looking for Brewster but finding the hands of Stefan Klos. Play swiftly switched to the other end where Rangers won a corner. Shota Arveladze took a quick short one to Neil McCANN who shot in a curling effort that sneaked in at the far post. Derek Stillie made no attempt to go for the ball, it seemingly deceived him totally.
The Pars kicked off with every expectation to be able to come back in their usual way when they are behind. This optimism ended almost immediately when Sean Kilgannon having sent a pass down the left wing, kicked out at Kevin Muscat just inside the Rangers half in front of the Dunfermline dugout and unfortunately in full view of referee Underhill. The red card was shown to the substitute ending his three minute game and arriving at the tunnel even before the protective cover could be extended.
On 66 minutes Crawford supplied a ball to Barry Nicholson who shot from a distance but Rangers blocked. In the next minute Crawford beat two men before Muscat was forced to concede a corner on the right below the 150 travelling Pars fans. Moore cleared the corner and through a sweeping move involving Ricksen, McCann and Ferguson play switched to the other end where Gus McPherson was forced to concede yet another corner.
Rangers began to make the extra man count and the ball seemed to be flashing across the Dunfermline goalmouth with frightening regularity. Michael Mols shot wide in the 70th minute. Substitute Claudio Caniggia supplied an excellent cross which no one accepted.
Averladze headed down a Ricksen cross and managed to miss at the left goalpost. Derek Stillie created a good Dunfermline chance in the 78th minute. He took the set piece from an offside decision midway inside the Dunfermline half and found Brewster who teed it up into the path of Crawford. This was really Dunfermline`s last chance as things got progressively worse.
Muscat got the better of Chris McGroarty and ran in towards the Dunfermline penalty box. He played a straight ball to MOLS who turned McPherson and slotted away with precision to put Rangers two nil up with nine minutes remaining.
As if to point the finger at poor Gus, the manager immediately replaced him with Steve Hampshire. The defence, however, sorely missed him as Rangers piled forward. Mols crossed from the right and with the defence sprawling ARVELADZE swept in number 3.
Things could have got even worse had Skerla been red-carded for what most people deemed a last man foul on Mols, but the referee showed some compassion by ignoring it.
Three minutes from time Mikel Arteta hit the right upright from 25 yards out. So in the end Rangers won comfortably but Dunfermline can feel that while they had 11 men on the park, they were worthy of their position as the best of the rest. With Hibs winning, next Saturday will see 3rd play 4th yet again but on this showing the Pars are capable of withstanding the pressure that comes with such contests.