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Everton on the cusp of Europa progress

Everton about an hour ago
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By ESPN Staff
Jan 17, 2010

Hoops slip up as Rangers race nine clear

Celtic were left with a nine-point deficit on Premier League leaders Rangers after a much-changed side were held 1-1 at home by bottom club Falkirk.

• SPL gallery

Carl Finnigan gave the visitors a 19th-minute lead after a slip by Darren O'Dea and Celtic struggled before Georgios Samaras levelled with an individual goal five minutes before the break.

The home side failed to impose themselves until the final quarter but, other than an excellent free-kick from debutant Ki Sung Yeung, they could not trouble Falkirk goalkeeper Robert Olejnik.

Earlier in the day Nacho Novo grabbed a second half winner as an under-strength Rangers battled to a 1-0 victory at Hamilton.

The visitors were without several key players for the second of three consecutive games against Accies and it showed as the home side carved out the best of the chances.

But it was Walter Smith's men who came out on top when Novo's late strike, after John Fleck's shot was parried, allowed them to take their revenge on a Hamilton side who held them to a 3-3 draw in the Active Nation Scottish Cup last week.

Dundee United leapfrogged Hibernian to go third in the standings thanks to a hard-earned 1-0 win over the Edinburgh side at a rainy Tannadice.

However the talking point of the match came three minutes earlier when the home side were awarded a penalty for a foul on Prince Buaben by Chris Hogg on the edge of the area.

Referee Steve Conroy initially appeared to point for a free-kick before deciding it was a penalty but Graham Smith came to Hibernian's rescue by palming away David Goodwillie's weak spot-kick.

Elsewhere, Craig Brown won the battle of the new bosses in emphatic fashion as Motherwell romped to a 3-0 victory at Kilmarnock.

All the goals came in the second half, with Jim O'Brien netting a double - ending a drought dating back to April - before Lukas Jutkiewicz added gloss to the scoreline.

The result got Motherwell's season back on track under caretaker manager Brown following five straight defeats and left new Killie boss Jimmy Calderwood in no doubt about the size of the task facing him at Rugby Park.

Meanwhile, Michael Stewart's first half penalty gave Hearts a deserved 1-0 victory over St Mirren at Tynecastle.

The home skipper fired his side ahead in the 23rd minute from the spot after Hugh Murray was adjudged by referee Stevie O'Reilly to have handled in his own box when challenging for a high ball.

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