Konterman goal spares Rangers' blushes

Anzhi Makhachkala 0 Rangers 1
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The Independent Football

Bert Konterman's deflected winner gave Rangers manager Dick Advocaat a birthday present and kept the club's European dream alive.

Advocaat turned 54 yesterday but his side's performance in this match could well have taken years off his life. Konterman's 85th-minute strike spared his side's blushes as well as taking them into the next round of the Uefa Cup and Advocaat knows that D-Day quickly follows birthday as Celtic are due at Ibrox on Sunday.

Rangers' season is still alive – but only just. This was the one-off tie in neutral Warsaw, using the Legia club's dilapidated ground, that Rangers had fought Uefa so hard to get. And another battle ahead of the first Old Firm clash of the Scottish season was just what they did not want as Anzhi, the mid-table Russian side playing their first European game, took them almost all the way.

The first half had ended in frustration for Rangers, who had begun as the dominant force but troubled goalkeeper Alexander Zhidkov just twice.

Russell Latapy was the first man to be denied after Ronald de Boer had fashioned the opportunity with a fine piece of skill. Then Zhidkov denied Neil McCann from a free kick move after Sergei Yaskovich had tugged De Boer's shirt on the edge of the area.

Anzhi had started nervously and had been determined to defend deeply and in numbers, with the giant Cameroon international Michel Bilong at the heart of the back line.

Fernando Ricksen miskicked an early effort, Tore Andre Flo saw another blocked and Lorenzo Amoruso fired a free kick wide, before Anzhi, the European debutants from the midsts of the Russian top division, began to be more adventurous. By the end of the first half they looked at least on a par with their more illustrious opponents.

Anzhi started the second half brightly too, with Edu firing at Stefan Klos and Ruslan Agalarov forcing another save from the German direct from a free kick. Rangers continued to struggle but with just five minutes left they enjoyed their huge slice of luck, Konterman's low drive from around 25 yards taking a hefty deflection off a defender to beat Zhidkov.

Anzhi Makhachkala: Zhidkov, Yaskovich, Gordeyev, Agalarov, Sirhaev, Adiev, Ramazanov, Akaev (Nikolich, 87), Bilong, Edu, Tsymbalar. Substitutes not used: Holly, Ngangué, Ivanov, Hoshic, Alexeev, Armishev (gk).

Rangers: Klos, Ricksen, Moore, Amoruso, Numan, Konterman, Ferguson, Latapy (Hughes, 90), McCann (Lovenkrands, 63), De Boer, Flo (Caniggia, 58). Substitutes: Dodds, Kanchelskis, Christiansen (gk), Vidmar.

Referee: E Steinborn (Austria).