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Rangers hit back in Old Firm derby

Lee McCulloch wheels away in delight after scoring his invaluable equalizer at Parkhead.
Lee McCulloch wheels away in delight after scoring his invaluable equalizer at Parkhead.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rangers and Celtic draw 1-1 in the Old Firm derby in Scotland
  • Rangers stay seven points clear of Celtic at top of Scottish standings
  • Hearts and Hibs draw 1-1 in bad-tempered Edinburgh derby with two men sent off

(CNN) -- Rangers kept their stranglehold on the Scottish title as a Lee McCulloch equalizer earned them a 1-1 draw against closest rivals Celtic in the Old Firm derby on Sunday.

It leaves the defending champions seven points clear of Celtic, having played a game more, with the season at the halfway point.

Ranger manager Walter Smith admitted his team had been fortunate to escape with a point at Parkhead with Celtic wasting a string of chances before Scott McDonald came off the substitutes' bench to head a 79th minute opener.

The Australian international converted from an Aidan McGeedy cross, but two minutes later saw McCulloch rise superbly from a corner to earn his side a valuable point.

Undoubtedly, it's less of a task than they had last year
--Celtic manager Tony Mowbray

Rangers have 44 points from 19 games and Celtic 37 from 18, but Celtic manager Tony Mowbray remained optimistic, saying that their city neighbors had denied them the title last term after coming from seven points behind.

"Undoubtedly, it's less of a task than they had last year," he told reporters.

The other game on a crucial Sunday in the championship race saw Hibernian and Hearts draw 1-1 in a bad-tempered Edinburgh derby which saw both teams end with 10 men and crowd trouble.

Gordon Smith gave Hearts the lead on the stroke of halftime but one of their fans was ejected after a flare was thrown as the players left the field at the interval.

Anthony Stokes leveled for the home side in the 54th minute, but three minutes later Ruben Palazuelos of Hearts and Hibernian's Darren McCormack were shown red for head-butting each other.

Hibernian stay third with 33 points and Hearts are fifth.