Panathinaikos 1 Rangers 1 <i>(Rangers win on away goals)</i>: Novo strikes late to send Rangers into raptures

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The Independent Online

Nacho Novo's late strike earned Rangers a place in the last 16 of the Uefa Cup thanks to a dramatic away goals victory over Greek club Panathinaikos, as the second-leg match in Athens ended in a draw.

Novo, guilty of wasteful finishing in last week's goalless stalemate at Ibrox, made amends by pouncing on a loose ball nine minutes from full-time to fire a precious away goal past Pana goalkeeper Mario Galinovic.

Rangers' assistant manager, Ally McCoist, said he had sensed a goal coming before Novo hit the equaliser to cancel out the stunning early strike from the Panathinaikos defender Ioannis Goumas.

"We're really chuffed," McCoist said. "As the game went on I knew we'd get one or two chances. We certainly had more possession in the second half than we had in the first. We went in one down to a wonder strike, but I knew we had a chance. I really felt we would have a chance, and didn't Nacho take it well?"

Rangers found themselves a goal behind after 12 minutes courtesy of a spectacular effort from the most unlikely of sources, the Greece centre-back Goumas. The 32-year-old defender picked up possession 30 yards from goal and held off the challenge of Brahim Hemdani before unleashing a thunderous shot into the top right corner past a helpless McGregor. Goumas continued to make his presence felt, drawing a fine save from McGregor with a fierce volley from the edge of the penalty area 10 minutes later.

Rangers almost got the goal they so desperately needed two minutes before the break through Novo, who was denied by a smart save by home goalkeeper Mario Galinovic.

Barry Ferguson, a peripheral figure in the first half, made an impressive run through the middle seven minutes after the break to release Charlie Adam, but the winger's poor cross which sailed out for a goal-kick largely summed up the visitors' efforts.

Boyd made a half-hearted claim for a penalty a minute later when he went tumbling under Nasief Morris' challenge but the German referee, Felix Brych, was not convinced.

The Greens continued to look comfortable while Rangers continually struggled to build any attacking momentum. With a goal desperately needed, Smith brought on striker Steven Naismith for left-back Papac and Christian Dailly replaced Adam after 65 minutes.

But the hosts continued to threaten and McGregor was called on again minutes later to tip Loukas Vyntra's shot round the left post.

Just when it seemed Gers were dead and buried though, Novo struck. Ferguson picked out Burke with a raking crossfield pass and the substitute sent over a dangerous low cross. The ball bounced off the unfortunate Morris and landed at the feet of Novo – who slotted home into the bottom left corner from eight yards to send the 800 Rangers fans into raptures.

Panathinaikos (4-4-2): Galinovic; Vyntra, Morris, Goumas, Nilsson (86 Papadopoulos); Mattos, Karagounis, Tziolis (83 Gonzalez ), Ivanschitz; Postiga (62 Ndoye), Salpigidis. Substitutes not used: Malarz, Ninis, Gonzalez, Papadopoulos, Seric, Simao, Ndoye.

Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Broadfoot, Papac (66 Naismith), Weir, Cuellar; Novo, Ferguson, Hemdani (69 Burke), Davis; Adam (66 Dailly ), Boyd. Substitutes not used: Alexander, Gow, Buffel, Burke, Naismith, Dailly, Cousin.

Referee: F Brych (Germany).

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