Laudrup leads rout

Rangers 4 McCoist 16 87, Miller 23, Robertson 29 Raith 0 Attend ance:43,535
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The Independent Online
IN THEIR long seasons of pacing the lower divisions the dream of playing venues like this no doubt kept Raith Rovers going. Yesterday, after a bright start before a hostile 43,000 crowd, they relaxed to enjoy the occasion and suffered a terrible mugging from the champions.

If Rangers remain as ruthless in Romania against Dinamo Bucharest in midweek they may well steal something from their difficult Champions' League opening.

Ally McCoist, Charlie Miller and David Robertson shared the goals but the key figure was Brian Laudrup. The Dane, who has perhaps felt overshadowed until now by Rangers' summer imports, was back to his roving best, running wide and amok against the Raith defence. With Robertson eager in support, his beat on the left flank will offer Rangers' best route of attack on Wednesday.

What the champions must avoid is offering Dinamo an early opening like they did Raith. Within 30 seconds they were in terrible trouble. Colin Cameron darted past Stephen Wright on the left and slipped the ball round Gordan Petric and into the box. The defender smothered Cameron wrestling the winger to the turf and from the free-kick Tony Rougier bent in a cross to Cameron which the striker should have done better than head into the side-netting.

At that stage the eyes of the home support were still on Oleg Salenko, sizing up the latest foreign dish. The Ukrainian's first touch of note took him into Raith's box but, lacking the pace to round Shaun Dennis, he flopped weakly in front of the defender, with the referee unimpressed.

Salenko's second contribution was a lay-off to Laudrup, who was given time to find McCoist. The striker ducked and glanced the ball into Scott Thomson's left-hand corner. McCoist's celebration was infectious and woke Rangers, who without a henchman in midfield had been stretched and teased. A second soon followed, a crisp left- footer drilled from 25 yards by Charlie Miller after Paul Gascoigne had blustered forward.

Raith, smarting badly, then succumbed to a third on the half-hour. Laudrup lobbed long to David Robertson who tapped past Thomson from five yards.

Jimmy Nicholl, puce no doubt by half-time, brought on both substitutes for the restart. A Dennis own-goal in 49 minutes threatened to test the Irishman further but McCoist was offside.

Brave saves by Thomson to stop Robertson and Gascoigne steadied Rovers' defence but in the 86th minute the goalkeeper was beaten again when McCoist buried a close-range toe-poke.

Amid it all Salenko's full debut was almost lost. The Ukrainian laboured valiantly but fruitlessly despite hitting the bar with an 88th-minute lob. His hunched frame as he trudged shattered from the pitch bore witness to Rangers' efforts, though their exertions were designed mostly to win a European starting slot. Domestically it will not just be Raith this season who will feel the heat of this desire.