One of the main reasons that Paul Le Guen, football connoisseur, accepted the manager's job at Rangers was European fare, preferably top table. With the SPL proving a nauseous ride so far, the Uefa Cup - with the final at Hampden - is looking tastier by the day. First-half goals from Thomas Buffel and Barry Ferguson set Rangers on their way to the group-stage feast last night, easing their French manager's blues in the process.
Defeat in last weekend's Old Firm derby had heaped more pressure on Le Guen, and he admitted it would have been a "catastrophe" for Rangers' season if they had failed to get past the Norwegians last night.
He tinkered again with his line-up. Rangers' best displays this season have been with two up front - as opposed to the lone man of Le Guen's preferred 4-2-3-1 - and so it proved again. Dado Prso and Kris Boyd, aided by Buffel tucked in behind and ably supported by the trio behind him.
Boyd netted within five minutes but it was ruled offside. Molde's first chance fell to Magne Hoseth in the 11th minute but it was blocked by his team-mate, Stian Ohr. Charlie Adam then took possession and dinked a pass to Prso, who slipped the ball to Smith, who crossed. Buffel charged in to meet it for the opener.
Buffel then had a curling 20-yard shot held, Molde hit on the break but to no avail, and within seconds Prso at the other end was threading a pass to Boyd, who scooped over. Marel Baldvinsson then had an even better chance but the Molde forward fluffed his header.
Libor Sionko, increasingly productive down the home right, had the ball in the net after a Boyd pass but the flag was up before he had even shot. On the cusp of half-time that pair produced the second goal for Ferguson, cleverly if not stylishly. Sionko played in Boyd, who stopped the ball dead to confuse the defence, knowing Ferguson was running in. With a slight stumble, he popped the ball in.
The hosts settled for more of a containing game after the break, their best effort a drilled Prso shot, superbly saved.
Rangers (4-3-1-2): McGregor; Bardsley, Hemdani, Rodriguez, Smith; Sionko (N'Diaye, 90), Ferguson, Adam; Buffel; Boyd (Rae, 67), Prso (Sebo, 81). Substitutes not used: Robinson (gk), Svensson, Hutton, Martin.
Molde (4-4-2): Larsen; Mavric, Andreasson (Gjerde, 65), Kallio, Rindarov; Ohr (Moster, 70), Rudi, Grande (Konate, 84), Hestad; Baldvinsson, Hoseth. Substitutes not used: Lilebakk (gk), Bakke, Madiou, Diouf.
Referee: K Kircher (Germany).
* Hearts were unable to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the home first leg as the tie at Sparta Prague finished goalless last night despite a positive start from the Edinburgh club. In the French capital, Derry City, who went into the second leg against Paris St-Germain all square, lost 2-0 on aggregate to first-half goals by Edouard Cissé and Pauleta.Reuse content