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Welcome to 2003........
Originally Posted by The Guardian
Hartson barges open title door
Graham Clark at Ibrox Monday April 28, 2003
If character, resilience and determination count for anything then Celtic may yet retain their league title.
Celtic were forced to go to the home of their greatest rivals only 56 hours after returning from their Uefa Cup semi-final success in Portugal knowing only a victory over Rangers would keep their championship hopes alive, a feat they achieved in front of Jose Mourinho, the coach of Porto, who await Celtic in the final in Seville.
"It was a terrific effort and the players deserve great credit for their willingness to keep going," said the Celtic manager Martin O'Neill. "This win has kept it interesting and we have given ourselves a chance."
Celtic, who were forced to change goalkeepers after only eight minutes with Javier Sanchez Broto taking over from the injured Rab Douglas, weathered the early storm. Rangers missed three outstanding chances through Claudio Caniggia, Lorenzo Amoruso and Ronald de Boer and then waited for things to happen rather than making them happen.
So rather than leg-weary Celtic having to chase and harry, they found themselves unexpectedly handed the initiative. And the visitors, now five points behind Rangers with a game in hand, are never a team to refuse an invitation.
They forgot all semblance of weariness and, operating an unaccustomed 4-4-2 system with Jackie McNamara nullifying the threat of Peter Lovenkrands, who has been Celtic's nemesis, seized the opportunity.
They posted a warning after 26 minutes when a McNamara free-kick from the halfway line was allowed all the way through until Stefan Klos scrambled to knock it on to a post. But only 60 seconds later Rangers went behind. Amoruso blocked John Hartson in the area and Alan Thompson stroked home the penalty to give Celtic the first goal.
The second, from Hartson following good work by Didier Agathe and Henrik Larsson, proved the match winner.
Hartson escaped punishment when Craig Moore needed treatment after apparently being caught by the Welshman's arm. But O'Neill said his striker "came into the dressing room at half-time absolutely adamant that video evidence would prove he did not use an elbow".
Rangers by then were badly rattled but, with Mikel Arteta on for Bert Konterman after the interval, they pulled a fine goal back through a De Boer header after 56 minutes.
Strangely, despite much huffing and puffing, they did not unduly trouble Celtic again. And so Rangers' previously perfect home league record ended in the 17th game.
"The formula is simple," said their manager Alex McLeish. "If we win our remaining games we will be champions, although making sure it happens is more difficult."