Wed, Dec 29, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Rangers victorious, closes gap at the top of the league

AFP , GLASGOW

Spanish striker Nacho Novo proved the inspiration as Rangers outclassed Motherwell 4-1 at Ibrox on Monday to narrow the gap at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

After scoring a brace Novo set up Shota Arveladze for the third and Steven Thompson sealed the points with a great individual effort to keep Alex McLeish's side one point behind league leaders Celtic who beat Hearts 2-0 on Sunday.

Rangers had opened the scoring in only the third minute. A harmless-looking ball by Fernando Ricksen into the box should have been easily cleared by the Motherwell defense but instead they raised their hands to claim for offside and Novo stole in to bundle the ball home from six-yards.

The home side were well on top but in the 13th minute Motherwell could have drawn level. Richie Foran collected the ball 20 yards from goal and struck a right-footed shot which whizzed just wide of Stefan Klos's post.

A minute later, however, Rangers deservedly doubled their lead. Georgian Arveladze flicked a ball through the Motherwell defense to put Novo through one-on-one with goalkeeper Barry-John Corr and the Spanish striker clinically tucked the ball home.

Arveladze himself went close in the 22nd minute when he cut inside Paul Quinn but from 12 yards out he pulled his shot wide.

Motherwell's Scott MacDonald should have done better on 32 minutes when he collected a Foran pass inside the box which took him through on goal but from 10 yards he blasted the ball inches over.

Minutes before the interval Novo should have claimed his hat-trick. French full-back Gregory Vignal surged to the byline and cut the ball across goal but the Spaniard fluffed his shot from only five yards out.

Four minutes into the second-half Motherwell got on the scoresheet with a fantastic strike by Scott McDonald. The Australian striker cut inside from wide on the left and gave Klos no chance by smashing a right-footed drive into the top right-hand corner.

But after 52 minutes Rangers regained their two-goal advantage. Novo carried the ball forward and slipped a neat pass through for Arveladze and he struck a first time shot from eight yards beyond Corr.

On 68 minutes Arveladze almost got his second when he brilliantly controlled a Novo cross and hit a powerful shot on the volley from only six-yards.

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