Smith is the hero with late winner


Scottish Premier League: Aberdeen 3, Rangers 2/Celtic 3, Falkirk 0 Jamie Smith was the toast of Aberdeen yesterday after his late winner gave his side their first win over Rangers for six years. The sending off of Fernando Ricksen with 35 minutes still remaining ultimately cost the champions and the Dutchman will now also miss next week's Old Firm derby.

However, Aberdeen looked to have blown their chance after goals from Dado Prso and Peter Lovenkrands wiped out a 2-0 first-half lead. Russell Anderson and Steve Lovell had been Aberdeen's scorers but just as it seemed both sides would have to settle for a point, Smith popped up with the winner. The scoreline ruined Rangers' 100 per cent league record this season and Alex McLeish's men will take on Celtic at Ibrox on Saturday below their rivals.

The breakthrough for Aberdeen was pure bravery on the part of their skipper Anderson, who hurled himself forwards to meet a free-kick into the six-yard box which spun up off Malcolm. He took a boot to the face as he headed past Ronald Waterreus but was soon back in the fray.

Diamond begun the move for the second by nicking the ball off Prso to allow Smith to slip the ball through to Lovell. The Englishman had made a hash of two previous efforts, but made no mistake at the third attempt. He slipped the ball past Malcolm before slotting past Waterreus' outstretched left hand.

But within seconds Prso headed home a Ricksen corner with no challenger present. Ricksen's reaction was to start a row with Novo that required the referee's intervention and it was not long before he was booked.

Lovenkrands fired a good chance wide but then made amends in the 49th minute with a stunning equaliser. Thompson was the man who made it possible by chasing a lost cause and hooking the ball into the box from the left by-line. The ball went straight to Lovenkrands, who fired an eye-catching scissors-kick past the startled Ryan Esson.

Ricksen's afternoon of action ended in the 55th minute after a second yellow card. Anderson bundled the ball into the net as the 10 men struggled to adjust but a raised flag cut short the celebrations. The sting in the tale arrived with just two minutes remaining when Smith picked up a clearing header from substitute Maurice Ross and sent a perfectly-placed low drive between Waterreus and his left-hand post.

ABERDEEN: Esson, Severin, Diamond, Anderson, Nicholson, Dempsey (Stewart 81), Clark, McNaughton, Muirhead (Foster 79), Lovell (Craig 73), Smith. Subs not used: Langfield, Winter, Donald. Booked: Nicholson, Diamond. Goals: Anderson 30, Lovell 37, Smith 88.

RANGERS: Waterreus, Pierre-Fanfan, Malcolm (Thompson 45), Rodriguez, Ball, Ricksen, Ferguson, Murray, Lovenkrands (Ross 74), Novo (Alex Rae 61), Prso. Subs not used: Klos, Adam, McCormack, N'Guessan. Sent Off: Ricksen (55). Booked: Lovenkrands, Malcolm, Ricksen, Thompson. Goals: Prso 39, Lovenkrands 49.

Referee: J Underhill (Scotland).

Alan Thompson conjured up a dream double as Celtic's resurgence continued with a gutsy 3-1 win over Falkirk on Saturday. But they had to do it the hard way as Gordon Strachan's side fought their way back from a goal down to secure the points after Darryl Duffy had fired Falkirk into a shock 39th-minute lead from the penalty spot.

But John Hartson levelled after the break with his sixth goal of the season before Thompson let fly with a breathtaking volley moments after it appeared Strachan was about to replace him. Thompson completed his brace in injury time with a thunderous left-footed free-kick which flew into the top corner.

The visitors were presented with the perfect chance to grab a shock lead in the 39th minute when Duffy went down under the challenge of Mo Camara. The Scottish Under-21 international picked himself up and coolly sent Artur Boruc the wrong way.

Even though Shunsuke Nakamura did not look fit, he supplied a special delivery for Hartson to equalise just four minutes after the restart. The Japanese midfielder swung an inviting ball to the back post and the Welsh international had an easy task to head home.

There were gaping spaces in the Celtic defence and Duffy should have exploited that in the 59th minute, but chose to bring the ball back on his left foot and fired wide.

Strachan did decide to bring on Shaun Maloney moments later for Maciej Zurawski to inject more energy into the Celtic side.

Falkirk sat deeper and it needed something special to break them down, but Thompson answered the call with a stunning strike in the 75th minute just as it seemed he was to be substituted by Strachan.

Hartson knocked the ball down to him just outside the area and he struck a sweet volley past Matt Glennon and into the top corner. Andin the first minute of injury time, Thompson hit the back of the net again with a curling free-kick from the corner of the penalty area.

Hearts reclaimed their place at the top of the Scottish Premier League with an impressive three-goal win over Dundee United yesterday. Strikes from captain Steven Pressley, Roman Bednar and Rudi Skacel gave George Burley's dynamic new team a well-deserved win.

United were steamrollered in the first half as Hearts' classy performance left the destination of the points in little doubt.

CELTIC: Boruc, Telfer, Balde, McManus, Camara, Petrov, Lennon, Thompson, Nakamura (Beattie 80), Hartson, Zurawski (Maloney 61). Subs not used: Marshall, Aliadiere, McGeady, Wallace, Virgo. Booked: Thompson. Goals: Hartson 49, Thompson 75, 90.

FALKIRK: Glennon, Lawrie, Ireland, McPherson (Andy Thomson 85), Lima, O'Neil (O Donnell 79), Latapy, Steven Thomson, Rodrigues, Duffy, McBreen (Gow 65). Subs not used: Hill, MacKenzie, Milne, McSween. Booked: Lima, McBreen, Andy Thomson. Goals: Duffy 39 pen.

Referee: A Freeland (Scotland).