Hibee History: Zitelli and Sauzee class sees off Rangers

David Zitelli slots home past Mark Brown
David Zitelli slots home past Mark Brown
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There was no containing the deafening roar from the Easter Road legions at 4.45pm – nor the rage of Dick Advocaat – after a pulsating contest which inflicted further damage on Rangers’ title defence and heightened Hibs’ own aspirations.

While the hosts celebrated consolidating second place in the table, and streaking four points clear of Rangers by virtue of David Zitelli’s 22nd-minute goal, Ibrox boss Advocaat was left seething at decisions which he believed cost his side at least a point.

Andrei Kanchelskis was denied a penalty, booked for diving and then sent off for a lunge on Ulrich Laursen but Advocaat was also dismayed by the performance of several of his depleted team.

Conversely, Alex McLeish had only one figure for his ire at the final whistle, turning round to silence a fan who had berated him for the defence sitting so deep in the second half.

Otherwise, he had Hibs heroes to thank for a memorable victory.

Man of the match Franck Sauzee mastered both Peter Lovenkrands and his young former team-mate Kenny Miller, John O’Neil was outstanding in midfield and goalscorer Zitelli struck for the second time in his career against Rangers.

When he played for Strasbourg, Zitelli knocked Rangers out of the UEFA Cup four seasons ago at Ibrox, and his cute finish here hinted that he is about to become a major star in the SPL despite being driven out of the French club in the summer.

Hibs began with such gusto, confidence and menace against a depleted Rangers defence that they always looked like stretching their advantage.

Zitelli scored a marvellous goal at McDiarmid Park on his last start to endear himself to the Hibs support but he was to earn hero status by scoring the goal and being a persistent irritant to Rangers before his enforced withdrawal at the interval.

Tugay gave the ball away in midfield and it was immediately seized upon by the classy O’Neil. As the Rangers defence moved to cover all bases, there was no stopping O’Neil’s delicate pass in behind Vidmar. Zitelli had plenty of work to do from a tight angle but his finish was icy cool, slipping the ball below the dive of young Mark Brown to set up a dramatic contest.

Yet Rangers need not have been unduly worried about letting Hibs score a single goal had their finishing not been so thoroughly feeble.

Miller was given a predictably bitter reception from those who once worshipped his every move up and down what was the Easter Road slope and, although he was more lively than Allan Johnston, he was up against the supreme Sauzee, who nullified the young Edinburgh-born striker throughout.

Hibs: Colgan, Lovell, Smith, Fenwick, Sauzee, Laursen, Jack, Latapy, O’Neil, Paatelainen, Zitelli.