Football: Rangers earn Parma's praise

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The Independent Online
THE United States coach, Bruce Arena, was one of the first to congratulate Claudio Reyna after his inspirational performance for Rangers in their 2-0 first leg win over Parma in Wednesday's Champions League qualifier.

Arena, whose friendship with Reyna extends back to their time at the University of Virginia, is thrilled at the progress the player is making at Ibrox. And he was on the phone yesterday morning after Reyna, a pounds 1.4m buy from Wolfsburg in April, had found the target against the Italian giants.

Arena's assistant, George Gelnovatsk, who is also head coach at the University of Virginia, said: "Bruce keeps in touch with our foreign-based players through e-mail and the phone. I know he spoke to Claudio this morning and we both believe that he is a special player."

Reyna's form is such that he could keep Andrei Kanchelskis on the sidelines when he recovers from an Achilles injury. Tony Vidmar, replacing hamstring- injury victim Arthur Numan, also staked his claim for another run in the team by scoring the opener.

But the Australian defender is taking nothing for granted, least of all the second leg in Italy. "There is still a lot of hard work to be done," he said. "You have to remember we are playing one of the top sides in the world. Even in flashes we saw some brilliant things from Parma. But that's three times we have played them in eight months and we are not that far away. But I am sure we will go there confident we can finish the job."

Parma's coach, Alberto Malesani, admits that he fears the worst for his Uefa Cup holders, whose domestic season does not begin until 28 August. "I was impressed by Rangers and I think they must be regarded as favourites to qualify," he said. "They were strong, extremely fit and had outstanding technique."

The Italian media wasted no time in blasting Malesani. "Cannavaro sent off. It's a landslide", was how Gazzetta dello Sport headlined the defeat. "Rangers unleashed themselves and Parma got an attack of the shakes," the paper added. "A big task now lies ahead of Parma in the second game and a lot of hard work will be needed if they are to go forward."

Corriero della Sera questioned Malesani's tactics after Cannavaro had been dismissed in the 26th minute. "Why did the coach wait 12 minutes before replacing Ortega, who was terrible, with Torrisi? Parma now face an uphill task in Europe and could miss out on the very rich stage of the competition."