Four goals in the opening twenty minutes of the second half helped Rangers leapfrog Celtic into first place in the Scottish Premier League. Goals from Steven Naismith, Steven Davis, Kenny Miller and Vladimir Weiss stunned Motherwell after a battling performance had seen Craig Brown’s side lead at the break.
Boasting a 100% record and showing no signs of an inferiority complex, it was the visitors that impressed in the opening 45 minutes. The defensive line was well organised and stood bravely up to everything Rangers could muster. The champions were forced to constantly try their luck from distance and as the break beckoned, the hard work of Motherwell paid off and they stunned the home side. Jamie Murphy crossed from the left for Nick Blackman to power his fourth goal of the season off the underside of the bar.
But after some ‘encouraging’ words from Walter Smith at half-time, the home hit the ground running in the second half and punished Motherwell. Naismith collected a ball from Kyle Lafferty to finish off a neat Rangers break before Davis put Rangers into the lead with a strong break from midfield.
Miller added the third and his 11th goal of the season by getting on the end of Naismith’s cross before Weiss completed the comeback by exchanging passes with Lafferty and then rounding Motherwell goalkeeper Darren Randolph for his first Gers goal. The win means that Rangers will go into the first Old Firm game of the season just ahead of their great rivals because of their superior goal difference.
Celtic, who had previously led the SPL thanks to their free-scoring start to the season, fell behind Rangers as they could only squeeze past Dundee United 2-1 in Sunday’s fixture. Gary Hooper prodded home a questionable 90th minute winner after United had battled back from Hooper’s earlier opener.
Neil Lennon once again signalled who his favoured striking pair is by starting Hooper alongside Anthony Stokes just seven days before the first Old Firm derby of the season and it was the former Scunthorpe striker that opened the scoring in the 13th minute. He swept home Mark Wilson’s cross to put the visitors ahead but the goal actually looked like it woke the home time up.
David Goodwillie and Craig Conway asked early questions of the Celtic back four before Goodwillie’s shot in the 38th minute deflected off Glenn Loovens to level things up. From there, both sides tried to search out a winner. Conway and Joe Ledley went close for either side before Shaun Maloney saw his free-kick curl round the wall but finish the wrong side of the post.
With 12 minutes to go, Anthony Stokes fired a shot that Dundee ‘keeper Dusan Pernis could only parry but the follow-up was rattled against the post by Ledley. And then, just as it looked like Peter Houston’s side would be the first to take points off either of the big two, Georgios Samaras nodded a cross into Hooper’s path. Despite calls for offside, the striker nudged the ball just beyond Pernis and secured all three points for the Bhoys.
Managerless Hibernian secured their first home win in the league since March thanks to a brace by recalled captain Chris Hogg. The Englishman, dropped in place of Francis Dickoh for the start of the season, nodded in the second and third goals of his seven years with the Edinburgh club as youth coach Alastair Stevenson lifted some of the gloom around Easter Road by beating Kilmarnock 2-1. Former Hibees boss Mixu Paatelainen had seen his new club take a third minute lead through Portuguese winger David Silva but a battling performance from the home team and two fine headers saw them to an unlikely victory.
At Pittodrie, Kevin Kyle scored the only goal of the game as Hearts did enough to beat Aberdeen. The big striker made the most of a groggy Dons ‘keeper to nod the Jambos to victory. Mark Brown suffered a head knock just before the break and while he did return for the second half, he didn’t last long. Kyle scored within the first sixty seconds of the second period and Brown was promptly replaced by Jamie Langfield; though Aberdeen were unable to recover.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle lifted themselves to fourth place in the SPL thanks to a Jonny Hayes goal against the run of play. For long periods of their clash with St Johnstone, Caley were second best and Terry Butcher knew it. He spent much of the game as close to the touchline as possible shouting encouragement to his players and it eventually worked with 20 minutes to go as Hayes cancelled out Colin Samuel’s prodded opener.
At the bottom of the table, St Mirren and Hamilton remained as they were thanks to a 2-2 draw in Paisley. Jon Routledge and Dougie Imrie fired Hamilton into a two goal lead before two strikes from Michael Higdon pegged Billy Reid’s side back.
Aberdeen 0-1 Hearts, Hibernian 2-1 Kilmarnock, Inverness CT 1-1 St Johnstone, Rangers 4-1 Motherwell, St Mirren 2-2 Hamilton
Dundee Utd 1-2 Celtic