Simone ends Rangers' dream

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The Independent Online

Yet another night of bitter Champions' League frustration for Rangers. Last year it was Bayern Munich who squeezed them out of a place in the second stage, this time the Scottish champions were 12 minutes away from glimpsing the promised land.

Yet another night of bitter Champions' League frustration for Rangers. Last year it was Bayern Munich who squeezed them out of a place in the second stage, this time the Scottish champions were 12 minutes away from glimpsing the promised land.

Marco Simone ensured it was nothing more than an illusion. Aided and abetted by his countryman Lorenzo Amoruso after the Rangers defender had foolishly given away possession, Simone struck a devastating equaliser. Ironically the Italian's right-foot shot consigned both teams to an early exit from the competition and, when the final whistle went, players from both sides lay prostrate on the turf cursing the stumbles which prevented their progress.

The Rangers side bore little resemblance to the one which had defeated Monaco six weeks ago. The most missed absentee of all was the injured talisman Giovanni van Bronckhorst, the matchwinner in the Stade Louis II. Indeed, the front pairing of Michael Mols and Kenny Miller was a radical experiment by the Rangers manager, Dick Advocaat, Mols because of his uncertain knee and Miller's lack of first-team experience.

The gamble though paid off when Miller - whose five goals against St Mirren at the weekend had strengthened his case - scored within three minutes of his first Champions' League appearance. Barry Ferguson's diagonal ball out to the left was met by Arthur Numan, who volleyed it into the area. The ball should have been cleared by Bruno Irles but Miller pounced and looped a right-foot shot over the goalkeeper Stéphane Porato from eight yards out.

Ronald de Boer might have doubled the home advantage in the eighth minute. The former Barcelona midfielder showed great poise to control a long ball and escape down the right but, with Mols haring towards the back post, De Boer inexplicably delivered a low cross which was cut out for a corner.

Confidence was surging through Rangers in the opening 20 minutes. Miller was given another sight of goal when Numan again turned supplier but this time Porato blocked his shot and Mols struck the rebound into the side-netting.

Gradually Monaco recovered their poise, and had Shabani Nonda not mistimed a hook shot after Simone's superb cushion header then parity might have been restored earlier than it was.

Scarcely had Miller leant back and squandered another Numan cut-back than the French champions equalised in the 38th minute. Simone's corner to the near post was met by Francisco Da Costa, whose diving header flew into the net.

Amoruso almost ruined the rehabilitation work of the last seven days on his tarnished image when his blunder in the 47th minute allowed Simone to skip clear. Fortunately for the defender his compatriot went too wide around Jesper Christiansen and was crowded out.

Five minutes later, Rangers were back in front. A Numan free-kick after a foul on Miller was flicked into the path of Mols by De Boer and the striker buried a left-foot shot underneath the body of Porato. The Dutch striker left soon after, to a standing ovation, having succumbed to the pain in his knee.

Simone's darting runs continued to cause Rangers problems but the frustration was beginning to show on the former Milan striker, and then Amoruso stepped forward to help him change his luck.

Rangers (4-4-2): Christiansen; Ricksen, Amoruso, Vidmar; De Boer (Wallace, 78), Ferguson; Albertz (McCann, 85), Numan; Mols (Tugay, 56), Miller. Substitutes not used: Brown, Kanchelskis, Wallace, Dodds.

Monaco (4-4-2): Porato; Contreras, Irles, Christanval, Da Costa; Dabo, Bonnal, Guily (Eloi, 69), Gallardo (Gravelaine 25); Simone, Nonda (Prso, 57). Substitutes not used: Biancarelli, Riise, Leonard, Rodriguez.

Referee: L Michel (Slovakia).

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