IAN FERGUSON kept Rangers within sight of a place in the European Cup final when his 13th-minute goal gave them victory over CSKA Moscow in the Champions' League here in Germany last night.
The victory leaves the Scottish champions in second place in Group A with three points from two matches, level with Marseille on points, though behind on goal difference.
It was another instalment in Rangers' series of away wins on the competition - they overcame Lyngby in Denmark and Leeds at Elland Road. 'It's much too early to say that Group A is a two-horse race between us and Marseille,' their manager, Walter Smith, said. 'We are happy to have three points out of four at this stage.'
Rangers' job was made considerably easier by a nervous, hesitant goalkeeper in Alexander Guteyev, the replacement for Dmitri Kharin, who has been linked with Chelsea in the last few days, and it was his mistake which led to the goal.
Guteyev came out to meet a Dave Robertson cross in the 13th minute but dropped the ball at the feet of Mark Hateley, who kept his composure and knocked the ball into the path of Ferguson, the 25- year-old midfielder who was suspended when Rangers fought back to draw 2-2 against Marseille a fortnight ago.
Ferguson drove in a shot from the edge of the area, and the CSKA captain, Sergei Fokin, sank to his knees as the ball deflected off him and floated over Guteyev and into the net.
With CSKA 'at home' here to escape the severity of the Russian winter, they flew into the attack from the off, and the Scottish champions went close to conceding a goal after only 20 seconds.
Oleg Sergeev was left unmarked on the edge of the box to fire in the first shot but Andy Goram made a tremendous save with his legs as he came out to narrow the angle. The Russian striker rose to his feet and hit another shot towards goal which Trevor Steven cleared off the line.
Rangers quickly fought their way back into the match and won four corners in quick succession. In the ninth minute, Ally McCoist slipped a tackle before breaking free inside the Moscow half and he whipped the ball into the penalty box for Mark Hateley, who slipped and saw the chance go begging.
The Russians, who knocked out Barcelona in the last round, demonstrated an abundance of talent, but also of tactical naivety, especially in defence. In the 27th minute, they were caught flat- footed by a delightful chip by Alexei Mikhailichenko but McCoist volleyed the ball against Guteyev from close range.
Rangers continued to create the better chances and in the 36th minute Trevor Steven let go a speculative shot from outside the box. Guteyev allowed the ball to squirm from his grasp but McCoist's shot from an acute angle flew across the face of the goal.
The Russians were impressive in their build-up but seemed uncertain in front of the Rangers goal. By contrast, Rangers were keen to test Guteyev at every opportunity and on half-time another cross from Robertson was completely missed by the keeper, though none of the Rangers attackers could get a foot to the loose ball.
Rangers began the second half by reasserting their authority, and they were unlucky not to increase their lead. In the 47th minute, Ian Durrant set up McCoist, who shielded the ball brilliantly from Fokin before striking a low shot which was superbly saved by Guteyev.
The Russians' full-back, Alexei Guschin, was shown the yellow card for a trip on Durrant in the 52nd minute as Rangers piled on the pressure. Fokin followed him in the 76th minute after he had brought down Hateley from behind.
Rangers had one last close call in injury time when Sergeev, looking offside, bore down on goal, John Brown racing back to save the day.
CSKA Moscow: Guteyev; Guschin (Ivanov, 66), Kolotovkin, Bystrov, Fokin, Malyukov, Minko (Grishin, 59), Karsakov, Sergeev, Duchmanov, Fayzullin.
Rangers: Goram; McCall, David Robertson, Durrant, McPherson, Brown, Steven, Ferguson, McCoist, Hateley, Mikhailichenko.
Referee: K Nielsen (Denmark).
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