Rangers......................2 Celtic......................0

Rangers went to the top of the premier division on goal difference last night and, suddenly, their supporters have the scent of a famous ten-in-a-row victory in their norsils.

Celtic were found wanting yet again as they attempted to match their most bitter rivals. A week ago, they plunged to defeat at their own ground in the Scottish Cup semi-final.

Yesterday, in a game in which a draw would surely have been enough to ensure the championship, they slumped once more to defeat. Now Rangers are in front and we must wait to see the whether Celtic will suffer psychological scars from the late resurgence in form of the defending champions.

For the first time in months, the destiny of the title is once again in Rangers' hands.

It may be marginal - there is just one goal in it - but the pressure moves on to the Parkhead side in the run-in.

That run-in is, of course, more difficult on paper for Rangers than it is for Celtic, but it has been that way for some time and the Ibrox club have battled on, and, suddenly, they are on top and they do have the opportunity to win the title if they do not slip in their remaining games.

Yesterday, the goals that gave them this chance arrived by way of Jonas Thern and Jorg Albertz.

The powerful German delivered a second goal that was almost an action replay of the one that he scored at Parkhead just a week ago.

That was enough to defeat Celtic in the cup tie - yesterday's was enough to place Rangers on top of the league for at least the coming week.

However, the first blood went to Thern after 24 minutes, when his stunning strike pushed Rangers in front.

There had been a free-kick awarded to rangers after Simon Donnelly fouled Alex Cleland.

Lorenzo Amoruso took the kick and sent the ball arching into the Celtic penalty box.

Richard Gough rose for the ball along with Marc Rieper and, although the Danish centre half won the tussle, he his header out of defence dropped towards Jonas Thern, some 30 yards out from goal.

The Swedish midfield man collected the ball, looked up, saw a gap, and then fired in a shot that left Jonathon Gould helpless, and so Rangers were ahead - and they remained ahead and even went further in front when Albertz struck in 66 minutes.

This time, just as last week, the German midfielder collected a pass deep - from Gordon Durie this week - and carried the ball forward through a challenge from Craig Burley and then beyond another from Alan Stubbs.

He then finished with a vicious low shot that flew past the despairing Gould.

Of course, it would never be an old Firm clash without the inevitable and crucial contributions from goalkeeper Andy Goram, undoubtedly a Rangers' legend, if only for his many magnificent saves in games against the club's city rivals.

He had saves from both Marc Rieper and Henrik Larsson yesterday to confirm his credentials and to strengthen the superiority of his team.

There was one other chance for Celtic that could have brought them back into the game.

In 62 minutes, Paul lambert broke through, evaded a series of desperate tackles, and then, when goram came off his line, sent his shot wide of the far post.

That might just have changed things, because it came during a spell of pressure from the Parkhead side - but, then, within four minutes, Albertz did his solo act and it was all over.

Before the end, Ally McCoist, who had a quiet game by his standards, found himself with opportuities to add to the Rangers' lead.

He missed one, which had been provided by Albertz, and then another - even easier - which was set up by Rino gattuso, who had replaced Gordon Durie for the closing twenty minutes.

Even legends can miss, of course, and McCoist simply confirmed that.

This was another day of disappointment for Celtic when, with only Jackie Mcnamara missing, they still could not match rangers in a crucial head-to-head.

The result means that Celtic have been able to win just a solitary Old Firm game this season, while Rangers have been the victors in three and the other has been drawn.

There were few successes for the Parkhead team, who dropped below the form they demonstrated at Rugby Park in midweek.

Now they have the easier run-in, but they must show that they can handle these games as well as Rangers have done over the past few weeks.

Once again, the beating heart of the Ibrox club was provided by Goram and Gough and the other veterans - but the fresh faces of Thern and Albertz provided the goals and gave a hint of the future.

There were seven bookings in the game - for Rangers, the yellow cards went to Amoruso, Joachim Bjorklund, Durie and cleland, while Celtic's players cautioned were Enrico Annoni, Larsson and Phil O'Donnell.

So the race continues . . .

Rangers - Goram, Cleland, Albertz; Gough, Amoruso, Bjorklund, Thern, mcCoist, Durie, McCall, Laudrup. Substitutes - Durrant, Gattuso, Negri.

Celtic - Gould, Boyd, Annoni, Donnelly, Rieper, Stubbs, Larsson, Burley, Jackson, Lambert, O'Donnell. Substitutes - Hannah, Brattbakk, McKinlay.

Referee - Hugh Dallas (Motherwell).