Rangers 2 Maccabi Haifa 0: Pitch invader mars victory as Novo goal helps put Rangers top

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The Independent Football

Nacho Novo's early goal and a late Charlie Adam penalty at Ibrox last night earned Rangers a second straight victory in the Uefa Cup to leave them three points clear at the top of their section and heavy odds-on chances to progress to the last 32.

But a cloud sits on the Continental horizon for Paul Le Guen's club because a second-half pitch invader, carrying a Palestinian flag, was allowed to run the length of the park and then attempt to chain himself to the Rangers goalpost.

While the protester was embroiled in a lengthy scuffle with seven policemen, a few Rangers fans behind the goal hurled a barrage of small missiles. One unconfirmed report suggested the fans' ire was stirred because the protester had a picture of the Pope on his T-shirt.

The lack of effective security may land the Glasgow club in hot water with Uefa. Rangers were fined last season for sectarian chanting by supporters and while the Ibrox hierarchy are making stringent efforts to stamp out offensive behaviour, a minority of followers are still risking punishment for Rangers.

Le Guen naturally preferred to talk afterwards about only the football. "A great result and a great performance against a very good team," he said.

He acknowledged that Rangers' superior performances in Europe, set against a sluggish domestic start, may be because his approach is better geared to the tests of more technical European football.

Novo scored in the fifth minute, smashing home Kris Boyd's ball over the top. Boyd later had a penalty saved before Adam converted his own in the final minutes.

"I think we've almost qualified," agreed Le Guen, when asked if the knockout stages were in sight. "Six points could be enough. And the other result tonight [Partisan Belgrade drawing 1-1 with Livorno] is the best we could have wanted."

Rangers (4-2-3-1): McGregor; Hutton, Svensson, Hemdani, Smith; Ferguson, Clement; Novo, Prso (Buffel, 67) , Adam (Rae, 90); Boyd (Sebo, 67). Substitutes not used: Letizi (gk), Bardsley, Rodriguez, N'Diaye.

Maccabi Haifa (4-2-3-1): Davidovitch; Harazi (Meshumar, 86), Keinan, Olarra, Magrashvili; Xavir, Anderson; Masudi, Boccoli (Melikson, 61, Arbeitman, 81) Katan; Colautti. Substitutes not used: Al Madon (gk), Swan, Gazal, Keise.

Referee: C Kapitanis (Cyprus).