Rangers recover in fine style

Football Rangers 3 Alania Vladikavkaz 1
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Rangers left it late and did it the hard way last night by coming from behind, but in the end they gave themselves the cushion they were looking for to enable them to travel to Russia in two weeks' time with a degree of confidence.

With a place in the lucrative Champions' League at stake, anything less than a two-goal margin would have led to sleepless nights for the Scots, although there will be some concern that they conceded an away goal while the Russians also contrived to miss a second-half penalty.

The heroes for Rangers on the night were Gordan Petric, who headed their third goal 11 minutes from time, and Derek McInnes, a pounds 300,000 signing from Morton, who more than adequately filled the gap left by a suspension to Paul Gascoigne. McInnes had watched the start of the match from the bench before replacing Ian Ferguson in the 19th minute.

As early as the 10th minute, Andy Goram, the Rangers goalkeeper, produced a save from Aslan Agayev and, after clawing away a 23rd-minute shot by Mirolzhalol Kasimov, he was beaten by a high-quality strike. A cut-back from the right fell perfectly for Igor Yanovski, whose powerfully hit shot found the far corner of the net. Rangers struggled to break down the tidy Russian side although McCoist managed to miss an excellent chance three minutes before the break, directing his header straight at the goalkeeper from a Brian Laudrup cross.

McCoist, often villain and hero to the Rangers supporters, required just one goal to become the all-time Rangers leading scorer in Europe. But it was typical of the man that he contrived to miss two easy chances at the start of the second half before finally getting on the scoresheet. His first miss, a left-foot shot from an angle, carried no power; his second chance from a Laudrup cross produced a good save from the keeper.

McInnes capped his first European tie with the Rangers equaliser on 50 minutes. He was on hand to shoot through a packed goalmouth after a Richard Gough header had been cleared. Another two misses from McCoist followed before the veteran put his side ahead. He was first to react, coming across his marker to stick out a foot and divert a Gordon Durie cross away from the goalkeeper and then off a post.

It was his 13th European goal, one more than the mark set by Ralph Brand and Alex Scott. His celebrations, however, paled when compared with the jubilation shown by Petric on scoring Rangers' third goal. The defender stooped to head a McInnes cross home from close range, and then took off on an orgy of celebration, stripping off his jersey and whirling it at his side, before slamming it on to the ground in a final, triumphant gesture. He was booked for overdoing the celebrations.

Within a minute the Russians might have found their way back into the tie but passed up the chance when Yanovski blasted wide from the penalty spot, having sent the goalkeeper the wrong way after Goram had fouled Oleg Sergeyev.

The Russians had been reduced to 10 men in the 62nd minute when Artur Pagayev was shown a second yellow, and then the red, card for a foul on Alex Cleland.

Rangers can be happy with their overall performance in what was their first competitive match of the season - yet they will go into the second leg knowing that things might have been worse, and there remains the potential for disaster.

The Alania coach, Valery Gazzayev, promised a hot reception for Walter Smith's men when they visit Vladikavkaz in a fortnight. "These preliminary- round matches are always decided in the second match and that will be the case here," he said.

Rangers (3-5-2): Goram; Petric, Gough, Bjorklund; Cleland, Ferguson (McInnes, 19), McCall, Durie, Albertz; McCoist (Van Vossen, 73) Laudrup.

Alania Vladikavkaz (3-5-2): Kramarenko; Kornienko, Tetradze, Pagayev; Revishvili (Botsiev, 40), Dzhioyev, Agayev, Tedeyev, Yanovski; Kasimov (Skysh, 63), Suleimanov (Sergeyev, 76).

Referee: M Merk (Ger).

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