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Rangers Wins Scottish Title, Just Barely

May 26, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

The closest championship race in the 113-year history of the Scottish league ended in dramatic fashion Sunday when Rangers defeated Dunfermline, 6-1, to win the title on goal difference over defending champion Celtic, whose 4-0 victory over Kilmarnock on the final day of the season was not enough.

Rangers became the first European team to win its domestic championship 50 times.

Rangers and Celtic, which have won the league title 87 times between them, started the day tied in points but with Rangers holding a one-goal advantage. They ended the season tied with 97 points apiece, but with Rangers Coach Alex McLeish's team ahead in goal difference, 73-72, and goals scored, 101-98.

"It has been a great fight and unfortunately in this great battle there had to be a loser," said McLeish, who angrily denied claims by Celtic forward Chris Sutton that Dunfermline had offered no resistance.

Celtic, which was beaten, 3-2, by FC Porto in the UEFA Cup final at Seville, Spain on Wednesday, rebounded from that disappointment but came up short.

"The effort they put in was magnificent, especially after playing in temperatures of 110 degrees [in Spain], but defeat is always hard to take," Celtic Coach Martin O'Neill said. "They showed their true character and we were a credit to Scottish football and Scotland should be proud of us."

Coincidentally, a Spanish forward, Mikel Arteta, scored Rangers' sixth goal on a last-minute penalty kick to secure the title.

"It was unbelievable," said Rangers' Dutch international Ronald de Boer.

Chivas Qualifies

Chivas of Guadalajara, perhaps inspired by the $1-million bonus offered by owner Jorge Vergara for winning the Mexican league title, overcame a 4-1 road loss to Cruz Azul on Thursday by beating Cruz Azul, 4-1, at Guadalajara on Sunday to secure a place in the quarterfinals.

Even though the aggregate score from the two-game playoff series was tied, 5-5, Chivas advanced because of its better regular-season record.

After Francisco Palencia had given Cruz Azul the early lead, Chivas responded with goals by Joel Sanchez, Omar Bravo, Johnny Garcia and a second by Bravo. Goalkeeper Oscar Sanchez preserved the victory with a crucial late save.

Olympiakos Prevails

Olympiakos won the Greek championship for a record seventh time in a row and the 32nd time overall Sunday when it routed Xanthi, 5-1, in the season finale, setting off celebrations deep into the night at the port city of Piraeus, the team's home.

Olympiakos had trailed the Athens club Panathinaikos for most of the season, but took the lead two weeks ago with a 3-0 victory over Panathinaikos. The teams ended the season tied on points at 70, but Olympiakos, under Coach Oleg Protasov, won the title based on head-to-head competition.

Lyon Stays on Top

In a peculiar ending to a successful season, Lyon retained its French championship Saturday despite a 4-1 home loss to Guingamp that caused Lyon fans to boo the players off the field.

AS Monaco trounced Troyes, 6-0, to clinch second place, but Olympique Marseille, which came into the final weekend needing a 19-goal victory in order to deny Lyon the championship, instead lost, 1-0, to Nantes and finished third.

Lyon fans did give Brazilian forward Sonny Anderson a standing ovation after the final whistle. Anderson, 32, is leaving the French league, because his contract has expired, after scoring 94 goals in four seasons with Lyon and leading it to two titles.

Monaco's Shabani Nonda finished as the league's top scorer with 26 goals.

Quick Pass

A goal by Sergin Yalcin earned Besiktas a 1-0 victory over Galatasaray on Sunday. The club, which is celebrating its centenary, clinched its first Turkish title since 1995.

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