Rangers 0 Zenit St Petersburg 2: Arshavin silences Rangers hordes

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Zenit St Petersburg struck a blow for the new era of Russian football last night, lifting the Uefa Cup thanks to goals by Igor Denisov and Konstantin Zyrianov in a match illuminated by the skills of Andrei Arshavin.

Football triumphed over pragmatism, just, to end Rangers' dreams of a quadruple. If there is consolation in a season that reached the 64-game mark for Rangers last night, it is that they still have four matches to play, and the SPL title and Scottish Cup are still available to add to the CIS Cup.

If there is regret it comes not from failing on the pitch – they tried their hardest, but the best team won – but from trouble caused by a minority of Rangers' huge following last night.

There was nothing but good behaviour and attractive football (by Zenit at least) inside the City of Manchester Stadium itself. Rangers' manager, Walter Smith, even took time in his press conference to praise Arshavin, and admit that he is the type of player that Rangers lack.

"This season we've missed the kind of play that the man of the match can offer," he said. "Someone who can give us something a little bit different. We've lacked someone to give us a bit more creativity."

Smith's counterpart, Dick Advocaat, a former Rangers manager himself, said: "I feel very happy winning a prize like this. It does not come often in your life, but if you've seen the way we played in this tournament, we deserved it."

The scale of the pilgrimage here by Rangers fans spoke volumes for what the occasion meant. Of the 108 trophies in their club's history, only one has been European, the Cup-Winners' Cup of 1972.

These are blue moon nights, and how Rangers turned Manchester blue. Rarely, if ever, have so many fans of a British team traveled for a match. Some 100,000 were expected. More turned up, and not just from Glasgow. From Australia they came, and Azerbaijan, North America and the Middle East, and all points in between, fuelling a black market where tickets routinely changed hands for £1,000.

By 2pm, Manchester police estimated there were 80,000 Rangers fans in the city centre alone. Untold thousands more were blocking the M6, pouring in from Blackpool (30,000 made it their base) and flooding the streets around the stadium.

They were supposed to be in possession of 17,000 seats of 45,000 available, with Russian fans occupying 9,000. In reality, there seemed to be 35,000-plus decked out in blue. "This is your chance. This is your time. Become legends," said their biggest banner.

Some Zenit followers settled for: "Submarine – For glory and victory." It is something to do with a fans' collective, apparently. It also represented Zenit's ambition to send Rangers' mood to 20,000 fathoms.

In the absence of Zenit's suspended leading goal scorer, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Advocaat bought back Arshavin, his most inventive forward, after his own ban. Arshavin, 27, is one of six Zenit players named yesterday in Guus Hiddink's Russia squad for Euro 2008. Another is Zyrianov, who has achieved great things despite awful tragedies in his life, including the suicide of his wife, who killed herself and their small daughter in 2002.

Smith was wise to be cautious, yet again, with a tweaked 4-2-3-1 version of his usual 4-1-4-1 European formation. Brahim Hemdani and Kevin Thomson played dual holding roles. Goodness only knows how many times Zenit might have scored had Smith tried to be expansive.

Arshavin's guile, pace and movement caused Rangers problems time and again. He made an early diagonal run towards the left of the box to collect a dissecting pass, and rattled a hard effort into the side netting. It was one of 10 first-half shots by his team, to one by Rangers.

Just when it seemed the whole affair might be one-way traffic, Rangers' captain Barry Ferguson combined with Thomson to set up Jean-Claude Darcheville, who tore into the box and squared an inviting pass, only to see it cleared by Ivica Krizanac. Then the one-way traffic resumed.

Shot, save, shot, save, shot nerves. This was not atypical for Rangers this season. Dull for neutrals maybe, but they would argue that winning matters most. And when you try to do that with a wage bill millions of pounds lower than Derby County's, you do it how you can. Defend in numbers. Wait for breaks. Pounce on them.

Darcheville tried to do just that in the 54th minute, when put through by Steven Davis. His initial shot was blocked and in an ensuing scramble, Rangers had a penalty shout for handball by Denisov denied. Replays showed they had claims, but then Zenit had earlier been denied in a similar situation involving Kirk Broadfoot.

Arshavin continued to menace. Just after the hour, he chased a long ball, and Neil Alexander, fearing a one-on-one, came way out of his area to chase, too. Arshavin won the ball, and shot, but Sasa Papac had tracked back to the unguarded net and nodded cleared from the line.

Arshavin was inevitably involved when Zenit took the lead, in the 72nd minute, cushioning the vital final pass in a two-man move started and finished by Denisov, who tucked his shot past Alexander.

Smith brought on two strikers and an attack-minded midfielder in search of a goal that failed to come. Zyrianov put the icing on Zenit's cake in injury time.

Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Malafeev; Anyukov, Krizanac, Shirokov, Sirl; Denisov, Tymoschuk, Zyrianov; Fayzulin (Kim Dong Jin, 90), Arshavin, Fatih Tekke. Substitutes not used: Contofalsky (gk), Radimov, Dominguez, Ricksen, Ionov, Gorshkov.

Rangers (4-2-3-1): Alexander; Broadfoot, Cuellar, Weir, Papac (Novo, 77); Hemdani (McCulloch, 80), Thomson; Davis, Ferguson, Whittaker (Boyd, 86); Darcheville. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Adam, Dailly, Faye.

Referee: P Frojdfeldt (Sweden).

Screen failure triggers clashes with riot police

Rangers fans clashed with riot police after a screen showing the game in the Piccadilly Garden fan zone failed to work last night. Police charged supporters after they lobbed bottles and cans at the officers, marring the good-natured atmosphere which had characterised the build-up. Clashes continued in the city centre in the game's aftermath with police making 30 arrests by late last night. In a separate incident a Russian fan was stabbed in the back outside the City of Manchester stadium, though his injuries were not life threatening according to Greater Manchester police. Six men, thought to be Rangers fans, were arrested for an alleged serious assault.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt

Life and Style

The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game