Celtic maintain edge over Rangers

Celtic's thrilling duel for the Scottish Premier League title with bitter rivals Rangers continued on Wednesday after both won their respective matches.

Celtic maintained their three point lead at the top with a 4-0 win over relegation threatened Falkirk at Parkhead. A first-half goal from Gary Caldwell sent the Hoops on their way before second-half goals from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Aiden McGeady and Darren O'Dea made sure of the win.

Rangers brought second from bottom St Mirren's unbeaten record at the New St Mirren Park to an end with a 2-1 win. Kris Boyd fired in Sasa Papac's neat cut-back to give Rangers the lead before Maurice Edu scored his first goal for the club with a bullet header from Pedro Mendes' corner. In the second-half Andy Dorman latched on to Craig Dargo's excellent threaded pass to pull one back for St Mirren but Walter Smith's side held on to claim all three points.

Strachan was delighted to have gained such an emphatic victory even if it was against such lowly opposition. "We made a lot of chances at 1-0 and sometimes if you don't score that second one you become nervous," said Strachan.

What I saw was people who were fully focussed and totally confident in each other,
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan.

"But I didn't see any signs of nervousness tonight. What I saw was people who were fully focussed and totally confident in each other which was good."

Falkirk manager John Hughes said Celtic had been scintillating at times. "Over the piece they were too good for us. I was disappointed to lose four goals especially when goal difference could come into play with the relegation battle," Hughes said. "But I couldn't ask any more from my boys in terms of effort."

Strachan was able to field the same team that easily disposed of Hamilton at the weekend but it was Falkirk who looked liveliest in the opening exchanges. Michael Higdon's appeals for a penalty after he appeared to be pushed in the back by Caldwell were waved away before Carl Finnigan's angled shot from 25 yards out went straight to Artur Boruc.

Falkirk continued to threaten and Thomas Scobbie came close in the 22nd minute when his header from a Neil McCann corner sailed just wide of the post. But it was Celtic who took the lead in the 29th minute through Caldwell. Shunsuke Nakamura's corner from the left was knocked on by Scott McDonald at the front post and Caldwell was there to slam it home from a couple of yards out.

Champions take charge
Scott Brown nearly doubled the lead minutes later when his curling effort from 22 yards out went just wide of the post. Just before half-time Celtic had two chances to extend their lead when both Vennegoor of Hesselink, on for the injured Giorgios Samaras, and Stephen McManus crashed headers off the crossbar.

With 50 minutes gone Scott McDonald created some space for himself at the edge of the box and, with the Falkirk defence backing off him, unleashed a powerful drive that just dipped over the bar. Vennegoor of Hesselink made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute. The striker bundled the ball home with his knee from four yards out after the goalkeeper missed Nakamura's low cross from the left.

Finnigan forced a good save out of Boruc with 70 minutes gone when he latched onto a soft Nakamura pass-back but the Polish keeper was able to save low at his front post. McGeady made the points safe in the 78th minute when he made it 3-0. The Irish international took a touch after collecting an Andreas Hinkel pass before firing an angled shot into the bottom corner of the net from 25 yards. In the final minute O'Dea made it 4-0 for the Hoops when a McManus cross found the Irish defender unmarked in the box to volley home from close range.