Football: Rangers in fear of repetition

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Football

The Rangers manager, Walter Smith, claimed after Wednesday's match at Ibrox that the prospect of taking a 1-0 lead over Anorthosis Famagusta to Cyprus for the second leg of his club's European Cup preliminary round tie did not scare him.

However, he admitted the thought that Rangers might fail to reach the multi-million pound Champions' League for the third successive year had crossed his mind "plenty of times." Smith was candid after a goal from Gordon Durie, a half-time substitute for the defender Brian Reid, gave the Scottish champions a narrow advantage to take to Cyprus on 23 August.

"We'd hoped to score more goals but it was not to be," he said. "The days of running up big scores is gone. I felt we didn't create enough chances in the first half so that's why we made a change at the interval.

"Famagusta defended very well over the 90 minutes and only really afforded us chances in the last half-hour. But this is the first time for a couple of years that we haven't lost a goal at Ibrox, which is a big factor.

"And you find in these qualifying games that teams can hit on the break as we've found to our cost in the past. Perhaps we can do that in Cyprus."

Smith also highlighted the pressure on his highly-paid stars to land the jackpot of a place among Europe's elite. "The financial rewards are such that there is a lot of pressure."

The Cypriot coach, George Vasiliev, said: "Yes, we have a chance of making the Champions' League. If someone had said to me beforehand that we would lose 1-0, then I would have settled for that.

"A 1-0 victory is not that good a result for Glasgow Rangers. They will have to attack in the second leg, but so will we.

"I was here 10 days ago and I knew Paul Gascoigne's capabilities but I thought Ilian Kiriakov played him well.

"Kiriakov is a very good player and had a lot of chances to take the ball from Gascoigne." Vasiliev added that he believed Anorthosis had the better of the first half but that Durie's arrival had unnerved his defence.

Gascoigne admitted that he found the shackles thrown around him by Kiriakov frustrating. Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, the England midfielder said: "I thought my fitness was quite good. But I spent most of the time trying to get rid of the ginger-haired lad [Kiriakov] who was marking me.

"I was pleased with myself, but that was a tough game. A few more games and I will be happy. We got a good goal and would have liked a few more. But now they've got to come out of their shells and that means there will be more space for the likes of myself and Brian Laudrup."

The Rangers goalkeeper, Andy Goram, was at the centre of an international mystery yesterday after apparently asking to be withdrawn from Scotland's squad to face Greece next week.

Goram, who has recently recovered his fitness after injury, was named on Tuesday in a 21-man squad by the Scotland manager, Craig Brown, for next week's European Championship qualifier at Hampden, but yesterday Goram said he would prefer not to risk the possibility of injury and endangering his club career. Goram has missed Scotland's last five internationals but on Wednesday he had an unexpectedly busy night for Rangers against Anorthosis. Now it seems the Ibrox goalkeeper wants to have talks with the Scotland management about his position.

"I don't want to play in a game where there is a risk of injury to cost me my place for Rangers," Goram said.

"It's only a few weeks ago since Craig Brown was saying how happy he was with the performances of Jim Leighton in goal for Scotland. That's fine by me."

The Hibernian goalkeeper, Leighton, has been in excellent form for Scotland during Goram's absence.

Goram is concerned about his fitness with Rangers due to play in Cyprus seven days after the international match, when his club will be bidding for a place in the lucrative Champions' League.

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