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Dublin: -1 °C Sunday 18 March, 2018

Late Sinclair equaliser extends Celtic's unbeaten run to 66 games

The league leaders were held by Motherwell as Rangers defeated Aberdeen.

Image: Jeff Holmes

RANGERS RETURNED TO winning ways with a 3-0 victory against 10-men Aberdeen at Ibrox as Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic were held to a 1-1 draw at Motherwell.

Rangers went in front in the sixth minute after James Tavernier slotted home a penalty before Mexican Carlos Pena celebrated his recall to the starting XI with a strike in the 27th minute.

Tavernier turned in his second goal in the 70th minute to end a run of two straight defeats and move his side into third place, three points behind the Dons, who had Ryan Christie sent off late on.

“I asked for a performance and they gave me a really, really good one,” said interim Rangers manager Graeme Murty.

“I think they’ve just shown the level they need to go and live up to for the rest of the season.”

It helps the Ibrox side close the gap slightly on Old Firm rivals Celtic, whose unbeaten run came close to ending after Mikael Lustig’s own goal gave Motherwell a 78th-minute lead.

However, Scott Sinclair levelled matters from the penalty spot in the 88th minute to extend Celtic’s run to 66 matches without a loss as they moved four points clear at the top.

After back-to-back defeats by Hamilton and Dundee, Rangers started like they had a point to prove at Ibrox and could have been in front in the first minute with Josh Windass inches away from connecting with Tavernier’s cross.

However, the home support did not have to wait long for something to celebrate after Greg Tansey brought down Jason Holt with a mistimed challenge and Tavernier sent his spot-kick straight down the middle.

The much-maligned Pena was restored to the starting XI for the first time since October 22 and came close with a 25-yard strike that Joe Lewis scrambled to tip over.

A second goal seemed inevitable and it came following an excellent move.

Kenny Miller sent Holt scrambling down the right and his cross into the box was swept in by Pena for the Mexican’s fifth goal in 10 games.

Rangers looked in total control, but Aberdeen came close to pulling one back when Kari Arnason’s header from a Ryan Christie free-kick looking to be heading in, only for Danny Wilson to clear off the line.

Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes had seen enough and brought on Gary Mackay-Steven, who almost had an instant impact as he burst past Tavernier, only to send his effort wide.

The tempo dropped in the second half as tempers rose, with Holt entering the referee’s book for a late challenge on Graeme Shinnie that saw Christie receive a yellow for his angry reaction.

The game was going flat before Tavernier got his second.

Windass whipped in a cross and the English defender turned an excellent first-time finish high past Lewis with the Aberdeen defence furiously appealing for offside.

Christie then saw red for a second bookable offence after clattering into the back of Ross McCrorie to compound Aberdeen’s misery.

“We got what we deserved,” said Dons boss McInnes, who has been heavily linked with the vacant manager’s job at Rangers.

“It wasn’t the greatest of evenings for us and it was a sore one to take.

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