Thompson on target to ease McLeish pressure

Aberdeen 0 Rangers 2
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The Independent Online

Rangers stole into the quarter-finals of the CIS Insurance Cup last night with a victory that bought their beleaguered manager, Alex McLeish, some time.

Rangers stole into the quarter-finals of the CIS Insurance Cup last night with a victory that bought their beleaguered manager, Alex McLeish, some time.

A stunning free-kick from Fernando Ricksen in the dying seconds of the first half found a mirror image in the second when Steven Thompson added another goal a minute from time. Thompson's hook shot painted an unrealistic scoreline on an encounter that Aberdeen had dominated, but not even the dismissal Bob Malcolm in stoppage time could dilute Rangers' joy.

It was not just Aberdeen's fine start to the Scottish Premier League, where their mean defence had taken them into second place behind Celtic, that had fired the local public's imagination for this game. Aberdeen crave success against Rangers almost more than life itself. The fact that they had not tasted a victory of any sort against their nemesis for six years illustrates how moribund this once great club had become.

Darren Mackie almost provided a remarkable opening when he robbed Jean-Alain Boumsong after just two minutes and was only denied by Stefan Klos charging out his box to block Mackie's shot. Steven Craig then came close with a series of shots, one that ought to have been buried from just 10 yards and another that drifted just over the bar. But Craig's evening drew to a premature close when he limped off just before the interval to be replaced by Scott Muirhead.

Rangers had not even managed a shot on target, yet they snatched the lead against the run of play with their very first attempt, with just seconds left in the first half. Shota Arveladze earned a free-kick when he was shoved by Phil McGuire, and that allowed Ricksen to bend a right-foot shot over the wall and beyond the Aberdeen goalkeeper, David Preece.

The shock took some time to wear off for Aberdeen, with Rangers enjoying far more possession in the early part of the second half, but gradually the home side re-emerged in the contest. They would have restored parity on the hour had Klos not produced a fine reflex save to deny Scott Severin's firm header, from Derek Adams' corner, punching it to safety.

Muirhead had an even better chance as he strode on to Steve Tosh's low cross. The substitute controlled the ball with poise, but then dragged his six-yard shot wide of the target.

Aberdeen (4-4-2): Preece; Hart, McGuire, Anderson, McNaughton; Tosh, Severin, Adams, Foster; Mackie, Craig (Muirhead, 44). Substitutes not used: Esson (gk), Morrison, Tiernan, Considine.

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

Referee: K Clark.

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