Football: Wallace gives Advocaat a fighting chance

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The Independent Online
Rangers 1 Parma 1

RANGERS LIFTED themselves sufficiently from their weekend lethargy to record a draw with their Italian opponents at Ibrox last night, although the result looks unlikely to be enough to help them into the last eight of the Uefa Cup.

The overall performance of the Scottish side rarely reached the standards they set in the early part of the season, but Rod Wallace's 68th-minute equaliser will at least give Dick Advocaat's side a fighting chance for the second leg in Italy.

The Finnish striker Jonatan Johansson passed a late fitness test on a thigh problem to bolster the Rangers attack, while the hosts were also able to welcome back the defender Lorenzo Amoruso to face his Italian compatriots. The visitors were without Enrico Chiesa, Faustino Asprilla and Diego Fuser, but still had quality throughout their ranks.

For those who wondered what effect Saturday's 5-1 defeat by Celtic would have on the Rangers players, the answer was quite clearly a draining of confidence that resulted in an edgy display. Their fans must surely have expected a greater commitment from their side on such an important night.

Parma created an early opportunity through Abel Balbo, whose powerful run took him to the edge of their penalty area before his low shot finished wide of the target. In the 13th minute the strength of Hernan Crespo took him away from Ian Ferguson and then Amoruso, but, fortunately for the Scottish side, his low shot was blocked by the legs of the Rangers goalkeeper Antti Niemi.

It took Rangers 29 minutes to trouble Gianluigi Buffon, the Parma goalkeeper. Wallace fed Andrei Kanchelskis, but the Ukrainian's first-time shot was straight at the goalkeeper.

Parma came close again in the 35th minute when Mario Stanic was picked out in the penalty area at a free-kick but, after chesting the ball down, he lost his footing before he could shoot. Niemi had to look sharp to punch away an attempted chip after Crespo dispossessed Amoruso, but it was a subdued Rangers team and support at the half-time whistle.

At the interval Advocaat replaced the disappointing Johansson, who had struggled to hold up the ball, and offered a rare chance to the out-of- favour Argentinian forward Gabriel Amato, who has struggled to make an impact since his summer move from Real Mallorca.

The home team started the half brightly with a Jorg Albertz effort from distance needing to be pushed away by Buffon. However, the Italians scored the goal they had threatened five minutes after the interval. Sebastian Veron's sublime reverse pass put Crespo clear and, although his shot was stopped by Niemi, Balbo followed up to sweep the ball home.

Eight minutes later Crespo again caused confusion in the home ranks resulting in Amoruso colliding with his goalkeeper but, thankfully for Rangers, Colin Hendry reacted quickly to cover the striker's shot.

Rangers equalised in the 68th minute with a typically British goal, Barry Ferguson's cross from the left being headed down by Hendry to Wallace, who shot home from eight yards.

Rangers could have taken a one-goal advantage to Italy with seconds remaining, but Gordon Durie headed wastefully over the bar from six yards. Even then the drama was not quite over as Niemi was called upon to make a superb save from Pierluigi Orlandini, the Parma substitute.

Advocaat's side have already proved they can perform well away from home, having beaten Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, but Parma would seem to be an altogether more difficult proposition.

Rangers (4-4-2): Niemi; Porrini (Durie, 57), Amoruso, Hendry, Numan; Kanchelskis, B Ferguson, I Ferguson, Albertz; Wallace, Johansson (Amato, 45). Substitutes not used: Stensaas, Wilson, Vidmar, Miller, Brown (gk).

Parma (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Sartor, Thuram, Cannavaro, Benarrivo; Stanic, Boghossian, Baggio; Veron (Fiore, 68); Crespo (Orlandini, 89), Balbo. Substitutes not used: Gvardalben (gk) Pedros, Giunti, Sensini, Vanol.

Referee: A Sars (France).