Celtic rue missed penalty after goalless draw

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Allan McGregor was the hero for Rangers with a penalty save eight minutes from time that kept his side one point clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League following their goalless draw with Celtic at Ibrox.

Tensions had been high in the build up to the game, with headlines dominated by off field events and the sectarian shame which surrounds this fiery fixture.

The build-up was dominated by Celtic manager Neil Lennon being targeted by a letter bomb along with two high-profile figures linked to the club, lawyer Paul McBride and politician Trish Godman.

On the field it was Rangers who had the majority of the chances in the 300th league encounter between the sides – but it was Celtic substitute Anthony Stokes who earned his side a penalty eight minutes from time that could have all but earned the Hoops the title.

But with the pressure on, Greek star Giorgios Samaras saw McGregor turn his spot kick round the post to keep Rangers in the hunt for their third championship in a row.

However the Hoops still hold the advantage with a game in hand over their Old Firm rivals.

Walter Smith questioned the penalty decision.

“It’s not a penalty kick but then again they got it and Allan McGregor saved it,” the Rangers manager said.

“From our own point of view the biggest disappointment is having by far the best of the first hour of the game and not managing to get a goal at that time.”

Lennon said he was satisfied with his side’s performance.

“A lot of questions were asked about the players again today and they have answered them and we should have won the game,” the Hoops boss said.

“Their goalkeeper was man-of-the-match so it says a lot about how we played particularly in the second-half.”

Despite the stalemate, the advantage is with Celtic as they have a game in hand over their Old Firm rivals.

Celtic eyebrows were raised as midweek two goal hero Kris Commons dropped to the bench along with top scorer Stokes while Joe Ledley, who had been struggling with a hamstring injury, returned along with Old Firm specialist Samaras.

Rangers made one change to the side that thrashed Dundee United in midweek with Kyle Hutton making way for Gregg Wylde as Walter Smith, in his 56th and final Old Firm match as manager, named the same side that were victorious in last month’s League Cup final against the Hoops.

Celtic were appealing for a penalty in the eighth minute when Steven Whittaker checked Ledley’s run into the box but referee Craig Thomson waved away the Welshman’s protests.

Rangers put the Hoops under pressure and only a perfectly timed tackle from Charlie Mulgrew prevented Steven Davis from getting a shot away in the box.

Nikica Jelavic chested down a ball to Edu at the edge of the box but the American delayed his strike too long and his effort was blocked.

Celtic slowly began to establish themselves in the game and after making space at the edge of the box Scott Brown dragged his low shot wide.

Gary Hooper then nearly hit the back row of the stand as he skied his effort after Samaras teed him up 20 yards out.

Rangers started the second-half as they had the first with Weir heading a Davis corner over before Naismith’s fierce volley was deflected out.

Lafferty should have opened the scoring in the 52nd minute when he connected with Wylde’s whipped in cross but the Northern Irishman somehow sent his header wide from six yards out.

At the other end Beram Kayal sent his low drive from 25 yards just wide of McGregor’s post before the keeper produced a superb save to turn Daniel Majstorovic’s goalward bound header round the post.

Celtic were let off the hook in the 65th minute when Jelavic’s neat back flick released Naismith, who surged into the box before cracking a crisp strike just wide.

Stokes replaced Hooper and within six minutes he had won his side a penalty after he knocked the ball past Davis, who then body checked the striker to stop his run.

Samaras stepped up to take the spot kick but McGregor dived low to his left to turn his effort round the post.

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