Rangers suffered their first defeat in the Champions League this season as Roberto Soldado scored twice to hand Valencia victory in Spain last night. Tino Costa added a third late on as the Spaniards leapfrogged Rangers into second place in Group C.
Steven Naismith hit the woodwork twice on a frustrating night for Walter Smith's side. "Finishing second is a big ask now," admitted the Rangers manager. "Now Valencia have a situation where they have a home game against Bursaspor to effectively qualify for the knock-out stages. That means it'll now be difficult for us. We need results to go our way."
The Scots could have taken the lead early on when Naismith embarked on a surging run down the left before cutting inside and rifling a shot at goal that crashed off the post, with Maurice Edu's rebound going wide.
At the other end, Aritz Aduriz's cut-back found Juan Mata in plenty of space six yards out and his rasping effort looked to be going in until Allan McGregor pulled off another impressive block.
Valencia were consistently threatening and it seemed only a matter of time before they scored. So it proved. After 33 minutes, Mata's corner was punched clear and, following a scramble in the box, the ball fell for Soldado, who was able to fire home.
Soldado claimed his second of the night with 20 minutes to go to put Valencia firmly in the driving seat: McGregor was unable to keep the striker's powerful, low right-footed shot out. Substitute Costa scored a third with a minute to go.
Valencia (4-4-2): Sanchez; Miguel, Navarro, Costa, Mathieu; Joaquin (Pablo, 84), Albelda, Banega (Costa, 70), Mata; Soldado (Fernandes, 77), Aduriz. Substitutes not used Moya, Bruno, Topal, Alba.
Rangers (4-5-1): McGregor; Broadfoot, Weir, Bougherra, Papac; Whittaker, McCulloch, Davis, Edu (Lafferty, 84), Naismith; Miller. Substitutes not used Alexander, Foster, Wylde, Fleck, Little, Hutton.
Referee F Brych (Germany).