Football: Rangers establish themselves as a credible continental force: Scots' display in southern France switches the pressure on to Marseille in the race for a place in the European Cup final

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The Independent Online
RANGERS' achievement in ensuring that the issue of whether Marseille or themselves contest the European Cup final with Milan in Munich next month will not be resolved until 21 April could be measured by the reaction of a partisan press in the Mediterranean port.

On the day of the winner-takes-all match with Rangers, Le Meridional spelled out the French champions' imperative with the ultimate in minimalist headlines. In huge capital letters it read simply 'Gagner' - literally 'to win' - after the title of the autobiography of Marseille's millionaire socialist president, Bernard Tapie.

Yesterday, after a 1-1 draw in the Stade Velodrome, the type size was smaller as, in sombre tone, it announced: 'Tout reste a faire' or, as they were saying in Scotland, 'All tae play for'.

Put simply - a task not facilitated by Uefa's complex rules covering the Champions' League - the pressure is now on Marseille. Victory at Club Bruges would put them in the final; anything less and Walter Smith's side would go through by completing a double over CSKA Moscow at Ibrox.

Should both contenders draw, Marseille would proceed to their second final in three years on away goals in the games with Rangers, having drawn 2-2 in Glasgow.

Although their destiny is out of their hands, Rangers must now be considered marginal favourites. Bruges have a formidable record in the Olympiastadion, and could theoretically win the group themselves in the unlikely event of a landslide win over Marseille and defeat for Rangers. Back in the real world, the long-standing antagonism between Belgium and France should at least help provide a competitive edge to their approach.

On the evidence of their meetings with Rangers, Marseille may be better equipped for a counter-attacking game than having to lay siege to well- organised opponents. Having said that, they have won only one of four away fixtures in this season's tournament, at Glentoran last September.

The vaunted talents of Rudi Voller, Abedi Pele and Alen Boksic managed too little in the way of attacking menace on Wednesday. Small wonder that the wistful spray-painted homage 'Waddle magic' is still omnipresent.

Those in Britain who still doubt Rangers' pedigree frankly do not know their Marseille from their elbows. The facts speak for themselves: unbeaten in nine European Cup matches this season, they have lost only two of 54 games overall (to Dundee and Celtic), and became the first visitors in 15 European ties to avoid defeat at Marseille.

Under the direction of Smith, a manager whose taciturnity masks keen tactical awareness, they are actually playing like a top continental side, sucking in opponents before hitting on the break. Ian Durrant's equaliser, a superlative volley, rightly earned the media plaudits, though in a typically cohesive team performance the unsung centre-back, John Brown, was without a peer in Provence.

Whatever the outcome, Smith feels that Rangers have finally made the breakthrough to European credibility envisaged by their own Tapie, David Murray. The fans clearly believe it; one banner in Marseille, confidently anticipating a Bavarian showdown with van Basten, Lentini, Papin et al, hailed them wittily as 'AC Govan'.

Confidence in Clough,

Non-League notebook, page 32

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