Heartache for Rangers as Love ends European dream

Rangers 1 CSKA Moscow 1 CSKA Moscow win 3-2 on agg
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The Independent Online

Rangers' dreams of returning to the holy grail of the Champions' League were swept aside by Europe's nouveau riche, as CSKA Moscow showed what £30m buys you these days.

Rangers' dreams of returning to the holy grail of the Champions' League were swept aside by Europe's nouveau riche, as CSKA Moscow showed what £30m buys you these days.

Watched by their multimillionaire compatriot, Roman Abramovic, the Russian champions progressed into the group stage thanks to their £6m Brazilian striker, Vagner Love, whose pivotal goal decided this third qualifying round tie.

Steven Thompson gave the home side a lifeline three minutes from the end of the second leg at Ibrox, with a composed finish from the edge of the box but it was too little, too late.

Ibrox spilled over with noise as a sell-out 50,000 crowd anticipated their side overcoming a 2-1 deficit from the first leg in Moscow. But the mood was momentarily punctured as the ground fell silent for a minute to honour the victims of last night's Russian air crashes.

The big surprise was that Alex McLeish had found a place for Craig Moore, stripped of the captaincy in the summer, but included to combat the elusive CSKA front pair of Ivica Olic and Vagner De Souza, who goes under the name of Vagner Love.

Rangers had to contend with some sweet CSKA passing in the early stages but the best chance fell to the Scots after 17 minutes. Gregory Vignal's cross was knocked down by Dado Prso into the path of Peter Lovenkrands but the Dane swept his shot over the bar.

But Rangers then contrived to gift a golden chance, with Fernando Ricksen's errant pass to Moore being gathered up by Love, whose deflected shot was kept out by Stefan Klos.

Ibrox exploded with joy four minutes before half-time when Nacho Novo danced past Elvir Rahimic's challenge and thumped a venemous shot into the net, only for the move to be called back by referee Wolfgang Stark for a Rangers free-kick.

CSKA took advantage in the second half as and Vagner Love unleashed a swerving shot that flew anxiously wide of the top corner of Klos's net in the 52nd minute. Seven minutes later the Russian side plunged a knife into Rangers' ambitions.

A clever link-up on the left between Ivica Olic and Jiri Jarosik saw the latter burst past Ricksen to the byline before setting up Vagner Love for the Brazilian to clip the ball past Klos.

A silence descended upon Ibrox and it would have been funeral if Love had struck again with a raking 67th-minute shot, but the sprawling Klos kept it out, and then denied Olic at point blank range as frustration enveloped the stadium.

Rangers (4-4-2): Klos; Ricksen, Moore, Boumsong, Vignal; Arveladze, Hughes, Mladenovic (Andrews, 80), Lovenkrands (Thompson, 63); Prso, Novo. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Malcolm, Khizanishvili, Vanoli, Ross.

CSKA Moscow (4-4-2): Akinfeev; Semberas, A Berezoutski, Odiah, Ignashevich; Rahimic, Zhirkov, Aldonin, Jarosik; Love, Olic (Semak, 76). Substitutes not used: Mandrikin (gk), Gusev, Osmar, Laizans, V Berezoutski.

Referee: W Stark (Germany)

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