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Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 21:42 GMT 22:42 UK
Rangers stumble in Austria
SK Sturm Graz 2-0 Rangers
Rangers slumped to their fourth away loss in a row as defeat in Austria put their Champions League future on a knife edge.
Strum Graz, who were demolished 5-0 in the opening game of the campaign at Ibrox, are now the surprise leaders of Group D following three convincing home wins.
Goals from Sergei Yuran and Gilbert Prilasnig were enough to give the Austrians their latest success as Rangers huffed and puffed but could not find a way through a well-organised side.
Rangers, who made a great Champions League start with two victories in the opening two games, must now win their final group match, at home to Monaco, to make sure of progression in the competition.
Alternatively, a draw against the French side would suffice if Galatasaray were to lose at home against Strum Graz.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst, his side's most influential individual in the Champions League this season, not least for his three goals, made a welcome return from injury, as did fellow Dutch international Arthur Numan.
Rod Wallace, who had been out for almost two months until a brief return at St Johnstone on Sunday, was picked to partner Ronald de Boer in attack.
22-year-old Danish goalkeeper Jesper Christiansen made his debut for the Ibrox side, while the home team were unable to field their two best players, injured striker Ivica Vastic and suspended midfielder Markus Schopp.
Rangers began with a three-man defence with Sergio Porrini playing deep between Bert Konterman and Lorenzo Amoruso.
Amoruso was called into action early on when Hannes Reinmayr and Yuran played a one-two and Reinmayer got the better of Porrini to get in a shot that Amoruso threw himself at to block.
The game started in scrappy fashion, with both sides struggling to find any rhythm and several passes going astray.
Tugay was first to threaten the Austrian goal, but his 10th minute shot from distance was deflected wide by a defender's boot.
Five minutes later,Wallace found room on the edge of the penalty area and managed to test the home keeper Josef Schicklgruber with his rising strike.
The home side had rarely ventured into the Rangers half of the field. However, with 20 minutes on the clock, they punished the Scottish champions with an expert display of countering-attacking football.
De Boer was dispossessed in the middle of the park and, just two passes later, Yuran was bearing down on the Rangers goal with only Barry Ferguson tracking back.
A dip of the shoulders was enough to wrong-foot both Christiansen and Ferguson and the Russian striker tapped the ball into an empty net to give Sturm Graz the lead.
Rangers tried to reassert themselves immediately with van Bronckhorst and Andrei Kanchelskis both bringing out smart saves from Schicklgruber.
Five minutes before the half-time break, van Bronckhorst had the Austrian goalkeeper at full stretch to push away a raking angled drive.
Three minutes into the second period Yuran almost doubled his tally for the evening when his blistering strike flew just inches over the crossbar.
Play soon raged to the other end of the pitch and Schicklgruber had to move swiftly off his line to thwart a promising run from van Bronkhorst with a brave block.
It was to be the Dutchman's last significant contribution as he was replaced by Neil McCann after 55 minutes.
Sturm Graz caught Rangers napping with another lightning quick break, but Kocijan dragged his low shot wide of the post.
McCann injected some pace and urgency to the Rangers attack, but the Ibrox side failed to conjure up any meaningful openings.
A header from substitute Strafner floated narrowly wide of the mark after more breathtaking counter-attacking from the home side had carved open the Rangers defence.
Billy Dodds took the place of Wallace for the final 20 minutes of the match as Rangers chased the goal which would have made their Champions League progress so much easier.
Threw caution to the wind
Soon after, striker Marco Negri was introduced to the fray. Porrini was the man to make way as Advocaat threw caution to the wind.
With seven minutes remaining Kocijan again went close for the Austrians with a spectacular scissors kick which flashed past Christiansen's post.
The Rangers cause suffered another set-back when Numan was ordered off.
The Dutch defender was penalised for an obstruction, and, having been booked early in the game for taking to the field after injury without the referee's permission, was shown the red card in the 84th minute.
Christiansen made his first save of the match in the final minute when he did well to push away a sharp shot from Strafner.
At the other end, A fierce strike from Tugay bounced agonisingly wide of the target.
With virtually the last kick of the ball, Prilasnig coolly slotted the ball into the corner of Christiansen's net with the Rangers defence all at sea.
SK Sturm Graz: Schicklgruber, Neukirchner, Popovic, Korsos, Mamedov, Schupp, Fleurquin, Prilasnig, Yuran, Reinmayr, Kocijan.
Subs: Baruwa, Foda, Strafner, Feldhofer, Szabics, Minavand, Koutsoupias.
Rangers: Christensen, Porrini, Konterman, Amoruso, Numan, Kanchelskis, Ferguson, Tugay, van Bronckhorst, Wallace, de Boer.
Subs: Brown, Ricksen, Dodds, McCann, Wilson, Negri, Ross.
Referee: A Lopez- Nieto (Spain)
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