Romanian minnows embarrass Rangers

Rangers 1 Unirea Urziceni 4
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The Independent Football

Rangers fans witnessed a second consecutive four-goal European haul at Ibrox last night but doom not boom was the order of the evening, again. They have not lost this heavily in the Champions League since, errm, the last time they played.

But this embarrassment, which only avoided being the day's No 1 continental humiliation because of Barcelona's simultaneous cock-up against Rubin Kazan, was much more dispiriting than the 4-1 home thumping they received at the hands of Seville three weeks ago.

First, it was delivered by minnows, albeit managed well by the former Chelsea player, Dan Petrescu. Second, it came after Rangers had gone ahead inside two minutes when Pedro Mendes' shot was deflected in via Ricardo Vilana. Marius Ioan Bilasco equalised in the first half, then own goals from Kyle Lafferty and Lee McCulloch followed in the second half before Pablo Brandan drilled home a fourth for the visitors.

Third, the hosts squandered a handful of first-half chances to wrap up the points, including a penalty, missed by Steve Davis shortly before the interval when the score was 1-1. Fourth, the home defending was dire, as Rangers' manager Walter Smith conceded afterwards.

On and on the woe could go, but suffice to say that Rangers will struggle now to finish anywhere but rock-|bottom of Group G. Seville will win the section, at a canter, while Petrescu's team are in the box seat for second place ahead of Stuttgart.

"I'm delighted," Petrescu said. "It wasn't as easy for us as the score suggests; we got some luck with the saved penalty and a deflection for 2-1." The closest he came to any criticism of Rangers was when he voiced his surprise at Smith's one-man attack.

Smith admitted: "We lost three goals that you shouldn't be losing at any level of football."But he disagreed that the missed penalty by Davis was the major turning point, adding: "After a good start we really didn't impose ourselves at all... it's very difficult to look at where we might finish in the group now. First, we need to look at ourselves and we need vast improvement."

Pre-match intrigue was not limited to tales about the Romanians, who hail from a town of 17,000 people – the smallest-ever place to have a group-stage team - and only won their league last season after a purge of corrupt referees.

Rangers had to solve their own mystery: the whereabouts last week of their Algerian centre-half, Madjid Bougherra, who went AWOL after international duty. Smith eventually accepted he was late because his passport had been stolen during a mobbing in Paris. He was then injured in training on Monday, did not play anyway, and Rangers got mugged without him.

Rangers (4-1-4-1): McGregor; Whittaker, McCulloch, Weir, Papac; Thomson; Rothen, Davis, Mendes (Lafferty, 45), Naismith; Miller. Substitutes not used: Alexander (gk), Boyd, Novo, Beasley, Smith, Fleck.

Unirea Urziceni (3-4-2-1): Tudor; Galamaz, Maftei, Bruno Fernandes; Nicu (Onofras, 19), Ricardo, Vilana, Apostol, Brandan; Varga, Balan; Bilasco. Substitutes not used: Arlauskis (gk), Mehmedovic, Paduretu, Semedo, Bordeanu, Frunza.

Referee: E Braamhaar (Netherlands).

Group G

Results so far: Seville 2 Unirea 0, VfB Stuttgart 1 Rangers 1; Rangers 1 Seville 4, Unirea Urziceni 1 VfB Stuttgart 1; Rangers 1 Unirea Urziceni 4, VfB Stuttgart 1 Seville 3.

Rangers remaining games: 4 Nov: Unirea (a); 24 Nov: Stuttgart (h); 9 Dec: Seville (a).