Sat, May 24, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Strachan hails team after title triumph

SCOTTISH SHOWDOWN Rangers will try to put the heartache behind them when they take on Queen of the South in the Scottish Cup final today

AFP , GLASGOW

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan paid tribute to his players after they clinched the Scottish Premier League (SPL) title on Thursday, an achievement he hailed as one of the best experiences of his life.

Dutch striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink scored the only goal of the game as the Parkhead side won 1-0 away to Dundee United.

The result meant Celtic finished three points ahead of Glasgow rivals Rangers after they lost 2-0 at Aberdeen. And Strachan became the first Celtic manager since the legendary Jock Stein to win three successive Scottish League titles.

At the end the Hoops boss was proud of his players but refused to answer questions from the media.

Strachan said: “I would just like to say this has been one of the most fantastic occasions of my life with a bunch of guys who believed in me and I believed in them.”

“We had a challenge, we accepted it and got on with without complaining,” he said. “I really do believe this is one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, not for me but for the players who have come under a lot of pressure over the season.”

“What I’m going to do now, and it’s only fair, is to go away and be with people who have supported and believed in us the whole season,” Strachan said. “It’s been such a momentous occasion that I’m going to enjoy it and speak to people and thank people who had belief in us, trusted us and supported us.”

Celtic’s Australian striker, Scott McDonald, had famously deprived the Parkhead club of the SPL title three years previously by scoring twice for Motherwell to defeat the Hoops on the final day of the season and hand Rangers the championship.

This time round he was delighted to have helped Celtic win the SPL.

“After scoring those goals in 2005 it’s great to finally put that right and it makes it even more special for me,” McDonald said.

The Aussie striker also paid tribute to Tommy Burns, the former Celtic player, manager and first team coach who had lost his battle with cancer the previous week.

McDonald said: “Everyone at the club loved Tommy. He was an absolute gentleman, god rest his soul. We did it for you Tommy, God bless.”

There was only misery for Rangers after their season, which once promised so much, continued to unravel.

The previous week the Ibrox side had still been on target for an historic quadruple before they lost the UEFA Cup Final against Zenit St Petersburg.

Now they will aim to beat First Division side Queen of the South in today’s Scottish Cup Final to complete the domestic cup double — after they won the League Cup in March.

Both Celtic and Rangers had started their matches level on 86 points, although Celtic had a goal advantage of four.

In the 63rd minute Aberdeen took a shock lead against Rangers when Barry Nicholson’s free-kick was headed home by Lee Miller from 8m.

The destination of the title was now firmly in Celtic’s hands and they took an even stronger grip in the 72nd minute when the took the lead.

Paul Hartley’s inswinging corner was met by Vennegoor of Hesselink, who leapt to power a header beyond United’s Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska.

The championship was over when Aberdeen scored their second goal in the 77th minute when Darren Mackie drove the ball past Rangers goalkeeper Neil Alexander from close range. Rangers’ misery continued short­ly after when Nacho Novo was sent off for a horrific tackle on Stuart Duff.

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