Rangers exit as Stuttgart advance via Wenzel goal

VfB Stuttgart 1 Rangers 0
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The Independent Football

A venomous volley from Timo Wenzel was enough to secure a place for VfB Stuttgart in the knockout phase of the Champions' League. But Stuttgart's advance came at a cost for Rangers whose 1-0 defeat in this Group E match here last night saw them eliminated from the competition.

Stuttgart started strongly with Alexander Hleb beating Michael Ball for pace down the right wing within seconds of the kick-off but his efforts came to nought as the Rangers defender Henning Berg was quick to clear.

The home side continued to push forward but the visitors eventually found their feet, managing to increase their possession and threaten. Rangers had an opportunity to open the scoring in the 22nd minute when Maurice Ross fired a ball into the box and Shota Arveladze chested it forward for Fernando Ricksen. The Dutchman fired goalwards only for the Stuttgart stopper Timo Hildebrand to divert the ball.

It had been an excellent move but Stuttgart were quick to counter as Hleb sent Kevin Kuranyi away with a superbly weighted pass, but his team-mate, once clean through, skewed his shot across the goal leaving the Rangers keeper Stefan Klos untroubled.

Klos was called into action soon after, however, first when Philipp Lahm met Horst Heldt's free-kick on the volley from more than 25 yards but was unable to find a way through and then, in the 31st minute, when Silvio Meissner's flick gave Kuranyi an opportunity in the box. Klos blocked and Berg cleared the danger.

As the half entered stoppage time, Zurab Khizanishvili was adjudged to have fouled Imre Szabics 30 yards out and as Rangers failed to deal with the high ball, Wenzel volleyed past Klos, having benefited from some good fortune after the ball bounced to him off Paolo Vanoli's shoulder.

Rangers came out from the break with renewed vigour but were once again forced on to the back foot by a Stuttgart side that continued to grow in ascendancy. Berg, the stalwart of the Rangers defence, denied the hosts on a number of occasions most notably when Capucho gave away a free-kick in a dangerous position on the left and the ball thundered in from the far side of the box for Zvonimir Soldo only for Berg to somehow manage a block.

Rangers did have opportunities of their own but despite their best efforts were unable to find the touch that carried them to a 2-1 victory when these sides last met.

VfB Stuttgart: Hildebrand; Hinkel, Meira, Wenzel, Lahm; Soldo, Meissner, Heldt (Tiffert, 49), Hleb (Centurion, 73); Szabics (Branco.89), Kuranyi. Substitutes not used: Heinen, Amanatidis, Gerber, Cacau.

Rangers United: Klos; Ricksen, Berg, Khizanishvili, Ball, Ross (Ostenstad, 70), Vanoli (Mols, 55), Hughes, Capucho; Arveladze, Lovenkrands (Burke, 80). Substitutes not used: McGregor, Emerson, Gibson, Smith.

Referee: M E M Gonzalez (Sp)

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