Fernandez's late header denies Rangers an advantage for Lisbon test

Rangers 1 Sporting Lisbon 1
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The Independent Football

Matias Fernandez ruined Rangers' night with a late headed goal as the Glasgow side were left with an uphill battle to make the last 16 of the Europa League. Steven Whittaker had given Rangers the lead before the Argentine struck.

Rangers carved out the first real chance of the game when Madjid Bougherra weaved his way past a couple of players before unleashing a shot, but his effort was weak and easily smothered by goalkeeper Rui Patricio. At the other end, a poor clearance from Allan McGregor gifted possession to Sporting, but the goalkeeper was able to breathe a sigh of relief when Maniche's tame shot fell well wide of target.

McGregor then comfortably gathered a curling free-kick from Cristiano after David Weir conceded a foul 25 yards out. Sporting then squandered a decent chance when Helder Postiga's angled drive fizzed across the face of goal and past the upright.

A great chance fell to Rangers when El Hadji Diouf released Whittaker down the right flank and he picked out Kyle Lafferty, only for the striker to nod over. Diouf then tried to set up Lafferty in the box but the goalkeeper punched clear before Whittaker hooked the rebound over. McGregor came to the rescue of Rangers just before the break when he blocked a point-blank effort from Yannick Djalo.

Rangers looked dangerous after the interval and could have been ahead within a minute of the restart. Diouf provided the knockdown for Whittaker and his thunderous shot drew a decent save from Patricio.

Rangers continued to press and Lafferty saw his shot deflected past goal before Sasa Papac's effort from distance went wide. The breakthrough came after 66 minutes when Whittaker rose above everyone else in the box to meet Vladimir Weiss's corner and dispatch a powerful header into the back of the net.

Rangers (4-4-1-1): McGregor; Foster, Bougherra, Weir, Papac; Whittaker, Edu, Davis, Weiss; Diouf; Lafferty. Substitutes not used Alexander (gk), Fleck, Naismith, Healy, Bartley, Wylde, Hutton.

Sporting Lisbon (4-4-2): Patricio; Pereira, Carrico, Polga, Evaldo; Mendes, Maniche (Fernandez, 77), Zapater, Cristiano (Saleiro, 74); Postiga (Solomao, 85), Djalo. Substitutes not used Tiago (gk), Santos, Coelho, Vukcevic.

Referee M Grafe (Germany).