Hapoel Tel Aviv 2 Rangers 1: Novo's knee not enough to prevent Rangers' defeat

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The Independent Football

Rangers' undefeated run in Europe this season came to an end when they suffered a 2-1 loss to Hapoel Tel Aviv in the first leg of their round of 32 match in the Uefa Cup in Israel.

The home side took the lead through an impressive free-kick by Salim Toama just before the break before Nacho Novo hauled Rangers back into the game, adding to the goals he had already scored in the tournament against Livorno, Auxerre and Maccabi Haifa.

But Baruch Degu ensured the win for the Israelis when he scored with 15 minutes to go.

The Glasgow side could also be in trouble with Uefa, as Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Nir Levin is planning to complain over a late incident in which he claims Rangers captain Barry Ferguson elbowed Tal Chen.

Last night's reverse also means the current crop have failed to better the club record of 12 European games without defeat, set by Walter Smith's side during his first spell as manager in the 1990s.

Smith made three changes from the side who defeated Kilmarnock at the weekend. Kevin Thomson and Ugo Ehiogu were ruled out after both picked up hamstring injuries at Rugby Park, while Charlie Adam was dropped to the bench. In came Gavin Rae, Karl Svensson and Novo.

Hapoel opened the scoring after 42 minutes when Weir fouled Ogbona just outside the box. McGregor had no chance when Toama sent a stunning free-kick curling into the net.

Rangers claimed a Weir header was handled in the box by Ram just after the break - but their penalty pleas were ignored by referee Pedro Garcia.

Smith felt it was a wrong decision. He said: "It looked like [a penalty], didn't it? Overall, there were a lot of free-kicks given rather easily by the referee in important areas of the pitch but when it came to an important one for ourselves he didn't give it.

"Overall I didn't think there was much between the teams and I thought a draw was going to be the final result."

He was wrong, although Rangers were level with 53 minutes gone. A Ferguson free-kick on the edge of the box rebounded off the post to Novo, who put the ball in with his knee.

That looked to be it until Degu burst into the box and slid home from seven yards after an effort from Barda looked to be going well wide.

Hapoel Tel Aviv (4-4-2): Elimelech; Abuksis (Chen, 83), Ogbona (Vermot, 87), Antebi, Badir; Bondar, Barda, Dago, Doani; Wellington (De Bruno, 67), Toama. Substitutes not used: Ben Shaanan, Abutbul, Jolic, Peretz.

Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Hutton, Svensson, Weir, Rae; Ferguson, Hemdani, Murray, Novo (Sionko, 79); Burke (Adam, 84), Boyd. Substitutes not used: Robinson, Sebol, Lennon, McMillan, Perry.

Referee: P O A Garcia (Portugal).

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