Hapless Rangers slump to bottom of group

Rangers 1 Auxerre 2
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The Independent Online
The perennial champions of Scotland may possess an ability to sweep all before them at home, but Rangers still have not cracked this Champions' League business.

In 14 games in Europe's most demanding environment they have mustered just three wins and although they dominated territorially on the night, the visitors were to be rewarded for resolute defending and two killer strikes. The speed of their breaks tore out the heart out of Rangers' ambitions leaving them bottom of Group A.

Following an ineffectual performance in the 3-0 defeat by Grasshoppers, Rangers resorted to all-out effort for the 90 minutes, but the stark fact was that endeavour was never enough against a skilled side which snuffed out the danger of Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup.

The shadow boxing of the first half provided glimpses of what was to come. A Richard Gough header was cleared off the line and Jorg Albertz shot straight at the goalkeeper while the French twice ventured forward with purpose before shooting wide.

The visitors shocked Ibrox with two goals in a 14-minute second half spell both of simple construction and execution.

Bernard Diomede crossed from the left in the 54th minute and a glancing header by Thomas Deniaud took the ball away from Andy Goram and into his net and off the far post.

The pair struck again in the 68th minute, Deniaud supplying a close- range header from his colleague's inswinging corner. Between the goals Diomede had shot against the outside of the post indicating the real danger that Rangers could fall further behind.

However, with a two-goal deficit the home side had little option but to go for broke and were brought back into the game by Paul Gascoigne who headed home a Laudrup cross in the 71st minute.

Predictably, Rangers set about a non-stop attack on the French goal until the end, but, equally, it was the predictable nature of their attacks which ultimately found the Scots wanting.

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, said: "It was a disappointing one for us. We had most of the territorial advantage but really never made many clear-cut chances while Auxerre defended exceptionally well throughout the match."

With three points for a win Rangers are by no means out of contention yet but perhaps a telling factor in the ambience of the night was the fact that live television resulted in a reduction in the attendance and as they chase a more realistic target of a ninth consecutive Scottish league title the sad fact is that there will be more passion and fervour at Ibrox during Saturday's league match with Celtic.

Rangers (3-5-2): Goram; Moore (Andersen, 77), Gough, Bjorklund; Cleland, McInnes, Gascoigne, Durie (Ferguson, 65), Albertz; Laudrup, Van Vossen. Substitutes not used: Snelders (gk), Durrant, Miller.

Auxerre (4-3-3): Charbonnier; Goma, West, Danjou, Rabarivony; Lamouchi, Henna, Violeau; Saib, Deniaud (Sibierski, 85), Diomede. Substitutes not used: Cool (gk), Marlet, Assati, Radet.

Referee: V Krondel (Czech Republic).