Thursday, May 22, 2008

Scotland: Title Hat Trick for Celtic

Celtic captured the Scottish Premier League title today in a race that went down to the final 30 minutes. Even on points and trailing by four on goal differential, Rangers needed to better the result of their crosstown rivals. With Rangers visiting Aberdeen and Celtic at Dundee United, both matches were scoreless into the 60th minute.

Aberdeen struck first with a 63rd minute goal from Lee Miller. Nine minutes later, Celtic's Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink put the title away with his 20th goal of the season. Rangers Nacho Novo was sent off after Aberdeen had taken a 2-0 lead, adding a cruel ending to Rangers end-of-season tumble.

Celtic won their last seven to capture their third-straight SPL title, two of those wins coming against Rangers. Vennegoor of Hesselink's 90th minute goal on April 16 gave Celtic a 2-1 win against their Old Firm rivals, a goal that proved to be the turning point in the title race.

The strain of chasing the League, Scottish Cup and UEFA Cup proved to be too much for Rangers. They won only three of their last eight league games, dropping the UEFA Cup along the way. Their last chance to add a trophy to their League Cup comes in Saturday's Scottish Cup Final against Division One Queen of the South.

The league title earns Celtic a ticket to the group stages of next year's Champions League. Rangers will have to navigate the last two rounds of qualifying if they are to return there as well.

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