[Soccer] Dramatic day sees Rangers win the SPL

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NACHO NOVO chose the perfect afternoon to end his goal drought as Rangers were crowned Champions in extraordinary circumstances.

The Glasgow team had arrived at Hibernian knowing they had to win to have any chance of snatching the title from Celtic on the final day of the season and Novo's 59th-minute strike provided that.

And as Ranger and Hibernian played out a scoreline that would also ensure UEFA Cup football for the home side next season, thousands of ears instead became glued to radios in the hope of good news.

Few had expected Celtic to surrender the lead at Motherwell they needed to retain the title but two Scott McDonald goals at Fir Park provided just that sensational ending to a remarkable season.

Novo said: "I thought we played really well throughout the game and it's great to score an important goal in the last game and win the title for the club.

"My family have been with me during the season and it's great for them to see me score the winning goal.

"I'm happy for the fans, my family and my girlfriend."

The news from Fir Park started to filter in via the various headphones and radios being monitored by the Rangers fans, with an enormous cheer ringing round Easter Road after McDonald grabbed the equaliser.

But Novo revealed the Gers players did not have a clue what was happening.

He said: "We didn't really know what was going on. We heard the cheers of the fans but we couldn't be sure what they meant.

"We just had to concentrate on what we were doing and now, we've won the title.

"We've been working hard throughout the season for this and it's nice for all that work to pay off at the end."

Hibernian had been keen to underline the fact that they had plenty to play for as well and started strongly.

Derek Riordan and Garry O'Connor both fired in early testers and the latter was only inches away from opening the scoring in the 10th minute.

That was via a flicked header from Stephen Glass' free-kick from the right that saw the ball skim over Ronald Waterreus' crossbar from fewer than six yards out.

But within a minute Novo almost opened the scoring.

Home goalkeeper Simon Brown was the man who had put his side in jeopardy by mis-judging the bounce of a long ball forward from Alex Rae.

Novo was on to it in a flash but when he attempted to find an empty net from a tight angle on the right he ended up rolling the ball against the near post.

His next attempt, in the 25th minute, did find the net but the Rangers fans' excitement at the other end lasted only for the split-second before it became obvious that only the side of the rigging had been found, with the jittery Brown again beaten.

Tackles had already been flying in by this point but the play became even more frenzied, with Alex Rae often in the thick of the midfield action.

Gary Smith then made a vital block to deny Buffel after Dado Prso had headed the ball into his path and when Marvin Andrews headed wide from a Michael Ball free-kick

Neither side made changes at the break and this time it was the visitors who applied the early pressure.

Within a few minutes Prso had sent Buffel through with a flick but the Belgian was denied by a superbly-timed challenge in the box by Steven Whittaker when there was zero margin of error.

Buffel wasted another chance before the game was an hour old when he fired over under pressure from Ian Murray, with the Ibrox-bound Hibs skipper having gifted the ball to Novo in the first place.

News that Aberdeen were winning added an extra weight of pressure to both sides as well and Riordan fired a free-kick wastefully from 25 yards.

The hour mark was fast approaching but so, the Hibs defence found, was Novo as a passing move involving Prso and Buffel found the Spaniard on the right of the box.

The shot that followed was not the sweetest he has ever struck but goalkeeper Brown could only get a touch that did not prevent it bouncing over the line.

It was Novo's first league goal since March 2.

Riordan was booked for one foul too many in the 61st minute and Ivan Sproule's afternoon ended in the 65th minute when he was replaced by Dean Shiels.

O'Connor was replaced by Amadou Konte three minutes later as Hibs sought to hang on to their goal difference advantage over Aberdeen at the very least.

Scott Brown and Novo were both booked following a clash that saw Rangers awarded a free-kick and Arveladze and Whittaker were hurt from it when they clashed heads.

Antonio Murray became Hibs' third new face and he set up Glass for a low drive that skidded just wide.

The game petered out after that as it became apparent that the scoreline would suit both side's requirements. All Hibs wanted was no news of further Aberdeen goals and indeed none came.

What information did arrive was remarkable nonetheless and as soon as the final whistle was blown there was no hesitation from the Rangers players or their fans.

They knew that fortune had favoured them and were intent on making the most of celebrating the fact.

I just can't get the smile off my face :D

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yeh that was a fantastic last day...you know I thought celtic had it wrapped up...im pleased that rangers won it :)

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Pretty surprising that Rangers won it. Good finish to the SPL. Just that it needs some teams taking off Rangers and Celtic off the top 2 places

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nice to see a Rangers fan quoting from the Sun, good newspaper, intelligent readership, etc...

i watched the 2. Bundesliga yesterday instead, even that was superior to the sad state of affairs in Scottish footie... :p

auf wiedersehen

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