Celts left fuming as Gers close in on title

SPL RESULTS Sat Feb 27 Aberdeen 0-1 Hearts, Dundee United 3-0 Falkirk, Hibernian 1-1 St Johnstone, Motherwell 1-0 Kilmarnock, St Mirren 0-0 Hamilton Sun Feb 28 Rangers 1-0 Celtic

Full Scottish results (and all tables) here

Celtic supporters have long felt their beloved Hoops are victims of biased refereeing decisions and Sunday's explosive Old Firm encounter provided additional fuel to feed this supposed paranoia.

Maurice Edu's injury-time winner means Rangers now enjoy the luxury of a 10-point lead at the top with a game in hand, but it was the key decisions made by referee Dougie McDonald that once again dominated the post-match discussions.

All eyes were on the whistler after an unnamed Celtic “source” had earlier in the week leaked the news that the Parkhead club had complained to the SFA about poor officiating in previous matches between the Glasgow rivals.

Controversial decisions were awarded in the favour of Rangers during both of this season's two previous Old Firm encounters. In the first, Celtic were denied what looked a certain penalty at Ibrox when Shaun Maloney was felled by David Weir in the box but referee Craig Thomson opted to caution the attacker for a dive; the Ibrox side went on to win the match 2-1.

Then in January, a Marc-Antoine Fortune goal at Parkhead was harshly chalked off for a foul on Gers keeper Allan McGregor; Lee McCulloch went on to earn Rangers a point.

And the green and white supporters were once again left fuming when referee McDonald had no hesitation in showing Celtic captain Scott Brown a straight red card after he clashed with Kyle Lafferty when a booking for both players involved would probably have provided a suitable punishment.

Lafferty, who last season was forced to issue a public apology after taking a theatrical tumble that led to Aberdeen defender Charlie Mulgrew being sent off, once again did not cover himself in glory after requiring little invitation to fall to the deck following his clash with Brown.

Lafferty and Brown clash, with terminal consqeuences

Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas didn't pull any punches when he said after the match that “Lafferty constantly seems to have an influence in Old Firm games and I tell you, it's nothing to do with ability – because he doesn't have any.”

Rangers supporters will question Nicholas's impartiality and argue that they had a goal disallowed for handball and a strong penalty appeal turned down. But this will be another match that will be cited by Celtic fans as a further example of their team being forced to play against the proverbial 12th man.

Celtic have already appealed the decision but the possibility of Brown's red card being rescinded would appear slim. And come the end of the season, this match is likely to be looked back upon as the day when Rangers clinched the title.

The Celts were expected to go for broke in a bid to give themselves one final chance of rescuing their stuttering league campaign but Tony Mowbray's side offered little in attack at Ibrox, with the jaded Robbie Keane a peripheral figure for much of the contest.

Indeed, the fact that Celtic's best performers were goalkeeper Artur Boruc and defenders Andreas Hinkel and Josh Thompson was further evidence that the Hoops spent a large part of the game on the back foot. The champions have a massive cushion at the top of the league and only a dramatic collapse will stop them retaining the title.

Elsewhere, it was an unhappy weekend for Mark McGhee's Aberdeen, who extended their winless run to eight games with a 1-0 reverse at home to Hearts.

The Jambos played the majority of the second half with 10 men after midfielder Laryea Kingston was red-carded for a reckless tackle on Fraser Fyvie but they left the Granite City with all three points thanks to Eggert Jonsson's stunning overhead kick.

Hibernian waved goodbye to their East Stand and third place as they squandered a lead against St Johnstone: Liam Craig's 84th-minute penalty cancelled out Anthony Stokes' opener, which also came from the spot.

Stokes strokes home

This gave Dundee United the chance to leapfrog the Easter Road side if they could overcome Falkirk at home, which they duly did courtesy of a David Goodwillie penalty and a Morgaro Gomis double.

SPL strugglers St Mirren and Hamilton battled out a goalless draw in a dire match devoid of any real entertainment, while in-form Motherwell stretched their unbeaten run to eight games with a 1-0 win over Kilmarnock. Craig Brown's men have conceded only one goal in their past nine SPL matches and now look certain to grab one of the top six places.

In the First Division, Ross County's title challenge was dealt a massive blow with a 2-1 defeat at Partick Thistle.

League leaders Dundee had a weekend off after their match at Raith Rovers was postponed but they will have been delighted to see their other challengers Inverness Caledonian Thistle also drop points in an exciting 3-3 draw at home to Ayr United.

It's been a good week for...  Walter Smith.

Although the Rangers manager would never publicly admit it, the SPL trophy looks like it will remain at Ibrox after their 1-0 win over rivals Celtic.

It's been a(nother) bad week for...  Mark McGhee.

Once again the Dons manager was left fuming after his side failed to take anything against 10-man Hearts. The Dons boss admitted after the match that his players need to improve quickly if they want to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle.

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