Rangers hit four in front of bumper crowd

Rangers made sure their flag-day celebrations were enjoyed by a 49,000 Ibrox crowd by thumping Kilmarnock, who did nothing to discourage a party atmosphere.

Rangers 4, Kilmarnock 0

Rangers made sure their flag-day celebrations were enjoyed by a 49,000 Ibrox crowd by thumping Kilmarnock, who did nothing to discourage a party atmosphere.

Killie goalkeeper Colin Meldrum handed out an early present in the shape of the opening goal and there were cards too – two yellows and a red for defender Chris Innes.

Mikel Arteta helped himself to two goals, including a penalty, after Peter Lovenkrands and Michael Mols put the champions 2-0 up.

The home fans’ day was made even better by news that Celtic had simultaneously dropped two points at Dunfermline.

Ibrox has been a graveyard for Kilmarnock goalkeepers in recent seasons with Gordon Marshall having let in six and four last season.

The previous campaign had seen Meldrum ship five on a day when Sheffield United were there to assess a transfer move and his luck was even worse today.

Meldrum, who had become the club’s number one choice following the summer departure of Marshall to Motherwell, was guilty of a clanger in the 14th minute.

Fernando Ricksen’s high ball to the near post found its way into both gloves but, after he had allowed it to hit one of his thighs, it was soon loose again.

Lovenkrands had been in close proximity and, after the initial shock of seeing a free gift materialise before his eyes, he gleefully found the empty net.

Meldrum’s misfortunes continued when Mols doubled the lead in the 37th minute with a shot on the turn from a Craig Moore head down which flew into the net via the goalkeeper’s face.

By then his task had been made an increasingly daunting one by the dismissal of centre-back Innes for persistently fouling Mols from behind.

Innes’ first booking came in the sixth minute for two illegal challenges in quick succession and another one soon after used up whatever goodwill was left in referee John Rowbotham’s mind. And so when, in the 35th minute, he repeated the offence once more his ejection was inevitable.

Sean Hessey felled Barry Ferguson in the box and was booked.

Up stepped Arteta to despatch the spot-kick and there was still time before the break for debutant Zura Khizanishvili to be booked for a foul on Paul di Giacomo.

It could have been an even worse opening half for Killie however as a Frederic Dindeleux own goal was disallowed with the score at 1-0 because Ronald de Boer had wandered offside.

Ferguson was able to resume after the restart and with the game already won, the only reason could have been to build up match fitness for Wednesday’s Champions League qualifier with FC Copenhagen at the same ground.

Rangers handed a debut to new Italian left-back Paolo Vanoli in the 64th minute and he replaced Michael Ball, who came through his first competitive action since a knee problem put his career on hold in December 2001.

Vanoli crossed to the near post for Mols but the chance was spurned and the fourth came from Arteta with a well-placed drive from outside the box.

It was a joyous moment for the young Spaniard, who had feared the fans would turn against him after his move to Atletico Madrid failed to materialise.

The home crowd did nothing of the sort and gave him an ovation when Bob Malcolm replaced him with 14 minutes remaining. The man of the match award soon followed.

The game had long since lost its competitive edge although Meldrum almost gifted Ferguson a goal with another penalty box fumble but this time was able to redeem himself with an instant save.

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