Football: McCoist makes his mark at last

Rangers 2 Grasshopper Zurich 1
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The Independent Online
It was inevitable that Ally McCoist would have the biggest say as Rangers recorded their first Champions' League win of the season.

The club's record goalscorer has now seen and done it all after completing a unique feat of scoring in every major competition throughout his career. If goals could be scored on A Question of Sport, McCoist would grab them.

Two second-half strikes secured victory on the night for the Scottish champions and, if the win was academic for Rangers in terms of the competition, defeat for Grasshopper could prevent the Swiss side progressing to the later stages.

Without the suspended Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup, who had a hamstring injury, Rangers relied on Jorg Albertz, their German midfielder, for inspiration and he was their driving force in the first half, twice setting up Richard Gough for headers, both of which were saved. He also shot powerfully wide shortly after the re-start.

The visitors impressed with their close control and mobility but, after a promising start in which Andy Goram was twice called upon to make saves, their fire faded, leaving Rangers to increase the pressure as the supporters increased the volume.

The game improved as the night progressed. Peter van Vossen won a penalty in the 65th minute when Pascal Thuler used a hand to prevent his progress, allowing McCoist the chance to open his Champions' League account from the spot.

The veteran striker's best moment, however, arrived six minutes later when he scored Rangers' second goal from open play. Albertz picked him out in space and the resultant low shot swept past the goalkeeper to the delight of the player and his supporters. McCoist had the shirt off his back in his ecstasy - for which he was shown the yellow card.

Within seconds the visitors were given the opportunity to bring themselves back into contention when Gough conceded a penalty for shirt-pulling. However, Goram, as he had done against Celtic last week, produced a spectacular save, diving to his left to deny Mats Gren, the Grasshopper captain, from the spot.

The visitors did manage to score in the 76th minute through Jan Berger, but their efforts to claim an equaliser proved fruitless.

Pride as well as the financial bonus of pounds 750,000 were the motivating factors for Rangers on the night. They can now turn their attentions towards capturing the first domestic trophy of the season when they face Hearts in the Coca-Cola Cup final on Sunday.

Rangers (3-5-2): Goram; Petric, Gough, Wilson; Cleland, Miller, Moore, Albertz, Robertson; Van Vossen (Andersen, 80), McCoist. Substitutes not used: Snelders (gk), McInnes, Steven, Shields.

Grasshopper Zurich (4-4-2): Zuberbuhler; Haas, Gren, Smiljanic, Thuler; Lombardo, Esposito, Vogel (Subiat, 79), Comisetti (Berger, 63); Turkyilmaz, Magnin. Substitutes not used: Foletti (gk), Geiger, Nemtsoudis.

Referee: L Vagner (Hungary).