FROM CHAOS, Rangers produced harmony. A mediocre first half at Ibrox was followed by the kind of display their coach, Dick Advocaat, has been looking for from his recently constructed team, and this result should be enough to see Rangers progress through to the first-round proper of the Uefa Cup.
Only in that second period did the Scottish side settle into their passing game, and while the need for a recognised poacher in the mould of Ally McCoist was again apparent, the quality of the goals from Andrei Kanchelskis and Rod Wallace brokered no complaint.
Rangers were against 10 men for 83 minutes but were themselves handicapped by the loss of Gordon Durie in the third minute. The striker was a victim of a reckless challenge by Triantafilos Macheridis, who failed to heed the yellow card he was shown and was ordered off for a bout of dissent in the seventh minute.
Even when faced with a depleted side Rangers found that their passing game was creaking at the hinges, with several moves breaking down before they reached the penalty area. Wallace headed wide from a Kanchelskis cross in the 15th minute, and the English striker saw his angled shot in the 31st minute saved by the Salonika goalkeeper, Nikolos Mihopoulos.
It was not until the 55th minute that Rangers made the breakthrough, and on chances they did not deserve to go in at the interval with any kind of lead. However, the header by Kanchelskis from Wallace's cross was both firm and precise, sending the ball back across the goal and into the top corner of the net for the Ukrainian's first goal as a Rangers player.
Wallace supplied the second goal in the 68th minute and again it was a creation of beauty. He finished off a three-man move with a fine curled shot into the bottom corner of the net from around 20 yards.
Amid the pretty Rangers patterns and frequent progress towards their opponents' goal, Salonika appeared unable to exert any pressure on the home defence, which will surely allow the Scottish club to believe they can reach the first rung of the ladder after two qualifying rounds in this competition.
The margin of victory might have been greater but Jorg Albertz, who came on as a second-half substitute for Barry Ferguson, saw Mihopoulos produce two good saves from powerful shots.
The bad news regarding Gordon Durie is that the Scotland striker could be out of action for some time with a suspected broken ankle. His absence is certain to force Advocaat into redoubling his efforts towards landing a top-class striker.
The signs were there towards the end of the game that this new Rangers side is beginning to gel, but still it will take some time for them to play as the unit the coach is searching for. Time is not on his side, and while the supporters have been generous to date he will hope for success both in Europe and Scotland, especially after the loss to Hearts in the opening league game of the season.
Rangers (4-5-1): Niemi; Porrini, Moore, Amoruso, Numan; Kanchelskis, B Ferguson (Albertz, 67), I Ferguson, Van Bronckhorst (Gattuso, 78), Wallace; Durie (Amato, 6). Substitutes not used: Charbonnier, Petric, Johansson, Miller.
PAOK Salonika (4-4-2): Mihopoulos; Bancovic, Macheridis, Olivares, Kapetanopoulos; Toursounidis (Zafseiriou, h-t), Nagre, Katisabis, Konstanpinibis; Vrizas (Cominges, 65), Srdatzeskos. Substitutes not used: Koulakiotis, Balis, Argyriou, Merisaoies, Uafes.
Referee: K Nielsen (Denmark).
n The Kilmarnock manager, Bobby Williamson, was in rueful mood after his side lost 2-0 away to Sigma Olomouc of the Czech Republic in their qualifying round first-leg tie. "We must play exceptionally well in the return leg to save the tie," he admitted.
In a game played in searing heat, Jiri Krohmer gave Olomouc the lead in the 26th minute. A second goal by Radim Konig 12 minutes from time now leaves Kilmarnock with plenty to do in the second leg at Rugby Park on 25 August.Reuse content