Last updated : 12 September 2002 By Grandmaster Suck
Rangers 2 (Caniggia 40, Arveladze 78) Heart of Midlothian 0

Attendance 48,581

The goalscorers celebrate
Rangers are back on top of the Scottish Premier League, their place at the summit of the domestic game secured with a 2-0 win over Hearts at Ibrox tonight.

It was a tense ninety minutes throughout, with the entire stadium aware of what was at stake. Rangers set out in the certain knowledge that victory would secure their rightful place as Championship leaders for the first time in more than two years, but the Tynecastle side came to Glasgow unbeaten and third top.

A one-minute silence in memory of the victims of the World Trade Centre Disaster one year ago today was immaculately observed prior to kick-off, unlike last night at Fir Park when terrorist sympathisers wearing green-and-white shamed their club, Scotland, and the cause of peace throughout the world.

Rangers made a whirlwind start. Shota Arveladze's drive was parried by Roddy McKenzie, the goalkeeper recovering in time to scramble the ball away from the
inrushing Ronald De Boer.

Two minutes later Fernando Ricksen was only inches away twice in quick succession from connecting with De Boer cut-backs, and certainly on the second occasion at least he should have burst the net.

Hearts however were certainly not here just to make up the numbers, as Phil Stamp demonstrated in thirteen minutes when his header from a Jean-Louis Valois cross hit the top of the bar.

The visitors were gaining in confidence the longer the game continued goalless. Indeed they had control of the middle of the park for long spells in the first-half with French midfielder Valois at the heart of every attack. One corner from the former Luton Town player in 33 minutes found Kevin McKenna whose header
was just inches wide of the target.

Somewhat against the run of play Rangers took the lead in 40 minutes when a superb inswinging cross from De Boer saw Claudio Caniggia find the net with a diving header.

The relief at the opener was almost tangible both on and off the park, and Rangers finished the half much the stronger.

There was a serious blow to Ibrox hopes in 51 minutes when De Boer - apparently suffering from a foot injury - was replaced by Billy Dodds, but within sixty seconds a slide-rule pass from Caniggia released Mikel Arteta clear on goal only for his goalbound shot to be deflected wide.

Rangers were in desperate need of a second goal to ease the tension, and almost secured it in 64 minutes when Craig Moore's header from an Arteta corner struck the face of the crossbar.

Three minutes later the Ibrox men suffered another injury blow when Arthur Numan, obviously in some discomfort, was replaced by Maurice Ross.

With the game entering its' final quarter there was the very real prospect of Hearts - who had played both impressively and positively - snatching an equaliser, but Rangers ensured the title leadership in 78 minutes when a Dodds cross was cleverly dummied by Caniggia, thus taking out no fewer than three defenders, leaving Arveladze with the simple task of walking the ball into the net.

Hearts at no time gave up the ghost however - McKenna's header from a Kevin Twaddle cross forcing Stefan Klos into a fine save in 89 minutes.

The final whistle confirmed Rangers' ascendancy in the championship race. In August 2000 the lead lasted for a mere three days - hopefully on this occasion it will be for a bit longer.

Manager Alex McLeish was delighted with the win, whilst stressing that there is still a long way to go in the title race.

On the injury front he had both good and bad news. Both De Boer and Numan are now doubtful for Prague, but Peter Lovenkrands should return at Livingston.

RANGERS Klos; Muscat, Malcolm, Moore, Numan (Ross 67); Ricksen, Ferguson, Arteta, De Boer (Dodds 51); Caniggia (Konterman 82), Arveladze
UNUSED SUBS Latapy, McGregor

HEARTS McKenzie; Maybury, McKenna, Pressley, McMullan;
Boyack (Twaddle 76), Severin, Stamp, Valois; De Vries,
Kirk (Wales 76)
UNUSED SUBS Gordon, Webster, Jancyzk

REFEREE Mike McCurry