Football: European Cup: Leaking Lukic gives Rangers the advantage: McAllister provides Leeds with the precious away goal but McCoist accepts a gift to turn the match

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Rangers. .2 Leeds United. .1

THE so-called 'Battle of Britain' lived up to its blood and thunder billing last night, two up-and-at- 'em teams producing the typical British cup tie we were promised to leave the second leg of this European Cup second-round tie, at Elland Road on 4 November, nicely poised.

Leeds have the away goal they wanted, courtesy of Gary McAllister's second-minute gem, Rangers a lead to defend, thanks to two handling errors which had the Scots laughing at a new joke last night. The one about English goalkeepers.

Ally McCoist's 38th-minute winner - his 25th goal of another prolific season - has left it on a knife edge, but England's champions are still the favourites, albeit by a wafer-thin shade of odds.

Whoever goes through will not terrify the real thoroughbreds left in the European Cup, but neither would be out of place in the tournament's last eight.

The atmosphere generated by the exclusively Scottish crowd was everything Rangers had promised, but forewarned is forearmed, and if anyone in the Leeds team was cowed, you would not have known it.

A full house at Elland Road can be just as intimidating for the faint-hearted visitor, of course - not that Scotland's bristling champions are burdened with too many of those.

McAllister, making his second appearance at Ibrox in eight days, found the hostility and fervour in marked contrast to the muted support Scotland's World Cup team received during their goalless draw with Portugal last Wednesday.

He wasted no time in stilling the noise, stunning the capacity crowd into silence by scoring with a real beauty, after just 64 seconds.

Richard Gough must have thought he had done a decent job of repelling Gordon Strachan's corner, but his headed clearance fell obligingly for McAllister, 20 yards out, from where Leeds' Glaswegian midfielder volleyed sweetly into Andy Goram's top- right corner.

It was some start. Too good, perhaps. Suddenly, Leeds had a problem. Should they attempt to sit on their lead for 88 minutes, playing keep-ball, or was it more prudent to stick to their original game plan and hope to get a second?

They fell somewhere between the two stools. They were inches from scoring again when Jon Newsome headed against the far post with Goram well beaten, and deserved to do so when Strachan, having played a clever one-two with Gary Speed, was wrongly penalised for offside.

Rangers, though, had come to the tie off the back of 12 straight wins, and their confidence was much in evidence as they assembled a fightback which transformed deficit into profit before half- time. Well though they played, they had to admit that Lukic had been their unlikely ally with one bad mistake after another.

The equaliser, after 21 minutes, was entirely the goalkeeper's fault, Lukic getting himself into a fearful state and fisting Ian Durrant's corner into his own net, past Tony Dorigo's last-ditch attempt to clear.

Bad was to become worse 17 minutes later. Another corner, another goal. Steven took this one, Dave McPherson got his head to it before Lukic arrived, and when the ball ran loose the predatory McCoist was there, as ever, to shoot into the unguarded net.

Rangers' pressure was such that they might have had two more before half-time - a haven which afforded Leeds a break in which to draw breath and regroup.

Howard Wilkinson reminded his players that 1-2 was not a bad deficit to take back to Elland Road, but that anything worse spelled trouble with an upper case T.

They responded well, and might have had equality after 61 minutes when Chapman, stretching, found the side netting instead of the target proper when he slid in at the near post to meet Eric Cantona's cross from the left.

Straight away, McCoist tested Lukic with a firm header from 12 yards. Cut and thrust, nip and tuck. It was a tie in the very best traditions of domestic cup football.

McCoist, of all people, spurned an inviting chance for 3-1, which would have given Rangers the whip hand in Yorkshire. Pieter Huistra, who had just come on for Steven, sent David Robertson scuttling to the byline on the left, whence his accurate cutback demanded a better finish than the hurried shot with which Scotland's premier striker dispatched it over the bar.

One goal in it, then, and all to play for in two weeks' time. It should be another cracker.

Rangers: Goram; McCall, D Robertson, Gough, McPherson, Brown, Steven (Huistra, 74), Ferguson, McCoist, Hateley, Durrant.

Leeds United: Lukic; Newsome, Dorigo, Batty, Fairclough, Whyte, Strachan (Rocastle, 87), Cantona (Rod Wallace, 78), Chapman, McAllister, Speed.

Referee: A Costantin (Belgium).

Souness' senior service, page 37

(Photograph omitted)