Rangers 0 Sporting 0: Lacklustre Rangers fail to break down stubborn Sporting

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The Independent Football

Rangers' dreams of European glory took a knock when they drew a blank in this Uefa Cup quarter-final first leg at Ibrox. It was a tired-looking performance from the home side, who had only a Lee McCulloch drive to show for their first-half efforts and were even less productive after the interval. They face a difficult task in Lisbon next week.

Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist admitted the Light Blues failed to do themselves justice. Neither side was able to fashion much in the way of clear-cut chances in a frequently fractious encounter.

"It was very frustrating – we didn't play well at all," said McCoist. "We were as poor with the ball as we have been for a long time. But it's a clean sheet and we are capable of going anywhere in Europe and scoring a goal – as we've proved. We know we can play a lot better, but not losing a goal at home in the first leg is a reasonable result."

McCoist felt last night's disappointing display may have been a result of fatigue as Rangers head towards the conclusion of a gruelling campaign. "We are a better team than we showed tonight. But you have to cut the lads a little bit of slack. But , in terms of possession, we were poor," he added.

Sporting's green and white hooped jerseys ensured a hostile reception but the visitors looked comfortable enough in the opening minutes of the match. McCulloch's wild left-footed drive from 30 yards which went wide of the target after six minutes was the hosts' first effort on goal as their more gifted visitors continued to impress with flair and technique. Rangers' captain, Barry Ferguson, picked up a yellow card in the 12th minute for a foul on the Sporting captain, Joao Moutinho.

Despite wielding a five-man midfield, Rangers were struggling to get a grip on the game, although Jean-Claude Darcheville, alone up front, looked in the mood when he got the ball. Sporting looked sharper, more inventive and more likely to get the opener but the half-hour arrived with neither goalkeeper having a save to make.

Rangers stepped up the pressure but still failed to create even a half-chance and 37 minutes had passed before the home keeper, Allan McGregor, had something worthwhile to do, easily saving Simon Vukcevic's 25-yard shot.

Just before the interval McCulloch let fly from distance but Sporting's goalkeeper, Rui Patricio, dived to his right to save.

Rangers started the second half with aggression, Darcheville's chip from the left in the 49th minute almost finding Ferguson, who had drifted in behind the defence for the first time. Three minutes later the midfielder Steven Davis drove towards the edge of the area but he sliced his drive high and wide.

The home fans' frustration grew as Rangers made hard work of simple tasks. Then, in the 65th minute, McGregor was equal to Vukcevic's low drive from the edge of the box, the goalkeeper diving low to his right to gather.

The visitors sensed Rangers were there for the taking and began to press as the game entered its final stages, missing several half chances of an away goal. The expected late charge from Rangers failed to materialise and to make matters worse, the veteran defender David Weir picked up a booking for a foul on Djalo. He will miss the return game.

Rangers (4-1-4-1): McGregor; Broadfoot, Cuellar, Weir, Papac; Hemdani; Thomson, Davis, Ferguson, McCulloch; Darcheville (Novo, 72). Substitutes not used: Alexander (gk), Boyd, Burke, Whittaker, Dailly, Naismith.

Sporting (4-4-2): Rui Patricio; Abel, Tonel, Anderson Polga, Grimi; Joao Moutinho, Veloso, Izmailov (Bruno Pereirinha, 70), Romagnoli; Liedson, Vukcevic (Djalo, 75). Substitutes not used: Tiago (gk), Silva, Adrien Silva, Farnerud, Gladstone.

Referee: Y Baskakov (Russia).