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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 23, 2006

SPL: Celtic take Old Firm derby with 2-0 win

GLASGOW, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Goals from Thomas Gravesen and Kenny Miller gave Scottish champions Celtic a 2-0 home victory over Rangers in the first Old Firm derby of the season on Saturday.

Four players were sent off at Hibernian, whose good run was ended in a 1-0 defeat by Falkirk.

Danish midfielder Gravesen grabbed Celtic's first-half opener after 34 minutes when he dived full length to head home after Rangers keeper Allan McGregor had brilliantly parried Aiden McGeady's header.

Former Rangers striker Miller scored his first goal for Celtic when he charged free down the middle and, as McGregor ran out to narrow the angle, he poked a low shot past the keeper into the net on 73 minutes.

Celtic top the Scottish Premier League standings with 19 points from eight games and stretched the gap to seven points over Rangers, who remain third.

At Hibernian, Falkirk went ahead in a stormy first half when Kenny Milne forced the ball home after eight minutes.

The match erupted when Hibs skipper Scott Thomson clashed with Falkirk's Steve O'Donnell and earned his second yellow card on 36 minutes from referee Alan Freeland.

However, Falkirk substitute Liam Craig, who had been warming up on the track near the incident, became involved in heated scenes and was sent off and ordered up the tunnel.

BBC Radio Scotland reported that police warned Hibs boss Tony Mowbray and Falkirk manager John Hughes to keep their players calm at halftime.

However, in the 75th minute, O'Donnell was sent off for his second bookable offence and after the final whistle the referee also showed the red card to Hibernian's Scott Brown.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan said it was the best Old Firm game, watched by 59,341 fans, he had been involved in since he joined Celtic last year.

'I thought it was a great game,' he told BBC Radio Scotland. 'That's the best one I have been involved in football-wise since I came here, with two teams having a right good go at each other.

'Kenny got his first goal and Thomas got his first goal for us so that was great.'

McGregor made a string of good saves, notably from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Shunsuke Nakamura, to deny Celtic more goals.

Rangers' Croatian striker Dado Prso smashed a downward header from a corner on 78 minutes only to see Lee Naylor smuggle the ball off the line.

Striker Kris Boyd turned defender Gary Caldwell and fired a 10-metre shot against the crossbar three minutes later.

Strachan said of the seven-point lead: 'It's satisfying, that is all it is. You can go home now and have a couple of days' sleep -- that's your reward for winning an Old Firm game.'

Rangers manager Paul Le Guen said: 'Even when they scored the second goal I had the feeling we were able to come back in the game.

'They are better than us, that is obvious, but we are not so far behind.'

Second-placed Hearts, with 13 points from seven games, play at Aberdeen on Sunday.

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