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Football: Amo Blast At Stubbs; RANGERS 2 CELTIC 2.

CELTIC failed to cut the gap between themselves and championship leaders Rangers after the Old Firm served up a thrilling 2- 2 draw at Ibrox.

Goals from Gabriel Amato - his first for Rangers - and Rod Wallace, were matched by efforts from Alan Stubbs and Henrik Larsson as the points were shared in the first Old Firm meeting of 1999.

That result left Celtic ten points adrift of Rangers, and six behind second- placed Kilmarnock.

But things might have been different had Celtic been awarded a second- half penalty after Stephane Mahe appeared to be tripped by Andrei Kanchelskis.

Celtic boss Jozef Venglos admitted: "The players thought it was a penalty - they were angry at that."

Paul Lambert added: "From where I was standing it looked a strong claim.

"The referee calls it how he sees it, and sometimes you get it, sometimes not."

But Rangers skipper Lorenzo Amoruso reacted angrily to Celtic's claims, pointing out that he thought referee Jim McCluskey, who booked eight players, had got more than one decision wrong.

"If the Celtic players are saying things like that then Alan Stubbs had to be sent off, because he made the same foul I did against Hearts.

"He kicked our keeper and someone has to say something during the game.

"But the referee takes the decisions, and he can't say about the penalty now, the game is gone."

For the third time this season, Dick Advocaat's men failed to beat Celtic, yesterday's draw the second tie in this campaign.

But Amoruso claimed results against the Ibrox club's arch-rivals are not as important as the main goal.

"If at the end of the season we win the league, it doesn't

matter if we didn't beat Celtic. But we have to play another game against them, so you never know."

The Italian stopper added: "I enjoyed it because we kept ten points ahead of Celtic. But for 40 minutes we pressed them, made chances but didn't score."

While Rangers remain in pole position in the title race, Celtic face a huge task of overhauling their Glasgow rivals.

There are just 15 league matches left this season but Celtic coach Jozef Venglos is not ready for writing off his side's chances of recovery.

He said: "Yes, we are able to catch Rangers. It will not be easy, but it is not impossible if the players show the same desire as they have during the Old Firm games. But we have drawn too many."

He added: "We have to try and we will try. There are still many games ahead."

While he has still to sample that winning Old Firm feeling, Dick Advocaat celebrated reaching the mid- season break with his men out in front.

"We are ten points ahead of Celtic, four in front of Killie - but you get the prize at the end - not at half-time."

Looking at the game, the Dutchman said: "At the end I was satisfied, but not at half-time. It was a great game, a lot of exciting moments.

"Until they scored there was only one team dominating and controlling the game, and we had the opportunity to score two or three goals.

"But their first shot on goal was a goal. The second half was more open.

"We showed more determination than in the second game at Celtic Park, even though we had many players who were very tired after 37 games in six months.

"I'm proud the way they worked to get the result."

Whitehill Welfare boss Mike Lawson was last night in Scottish Cup dream-land after the non-league side were handed a chance to meet an Old Firm side for the second time in just three years.

In January 1996 Whitehill, then managed by Dave Smith, lost 3-0 to Celtic at Easter Road at the same stage.

Former pro Lawson, who once starred for the likes of St Johnstone, Raith Rovers and Hibs, said: "It's just incredible that we could end up playing an Old Firm side again so soon after that Celtic match.

"I honestly believed after the 1-1 draw against Stenhousemuir on Saturday that we had no chance in next week's replay.

"But the incentive of playing Rangers at Ibrox changes everything.

"I'm sure that we will now be fired up to produce a performance above ourselves."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 4, 1999
Words:716
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