Having already qualified for the last 32, Rangers struggled to lift themselves for much of last night's final match in Group A of the Uefa Cup. However, the incentive of avoiding third-placed drop-outs from the Champions' League groups in the next stage was enough for victory over Partizan, thanks to Alan Hutton's second-half header.
Rangers were looking to equal their Scottish record of 12 consecutive unbeaten European matches but Partizan looked sharp and had a chance to score after seven minutes. Nebojsa Marinkovic's cross was perfect but Nenad Mirosavljevic's header was not.
Rangers' stand-in captain Gavin Rae soon hit a post from close range, but that failed to inspire the home side as theymade hard work of dominating a side who sat bottom of the group with only one point. The visitors were, for the most part, comfortable until, in the 29th minute, when Nacho Novo played in Filip Sebo, but the Slovakian striker's shot hit Partizan's goalkeeper, Nikolas Aspro-genis, from just 10 yards.
Nine minutes after the break, Rangers took the lead. Sebo won a free-kick on the right and when Novo swung the cross into the penalty area, the right-back Alan Hutton headed his first goal of the season.
"We wanted the result to finish top, there were a lot of changes and sometimes it can be hard to get going, but I thought the boys did really well," said Rae. Attentions have now turned to the Old Firm game with Celtic on Sunday. "We know it's an important game on Sunday. Domestically we need to keep pushing and pushing," Rae said.
Rangers: McGregor; Hutton (Lowing, 75), Rodriguez, Svensson, Smith, Hemdani, N'Diaye, Buffel (Stanger, 80), Rae, Sebo, Novo (Sionko, 64). Substitutes not used: Klos (gk), Clément, Prso, Adam.
Partizan Belgrade: Asprogenis; Rnic, Mihajlov, Djordjevic, Lomic, Zajic, Smiljanic, Tomic, Nebojsa Marinkovic (Vukelja, 69), Bosancic (Nenad Marinkovic, 67), Mirosavljevic (Gulan, 89). Substitutes not used: Jahic, Markovski, Lazic, Radovanovic.
Referee: R Bossen (Netherlands)
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