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Page last updated at 20:35 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 21:35 UK

Rangers 0-0 Fiorentina

By Jonathan Stevenson

Fiorentina's Giampaolo Pazzini and Rangers' Carlos Cuellar
Pazzini (left) is denied by Cuellar's block tackle at Ibrox

Rangers held Italian side Fiorentina to a goalless draw in the first leg of their Uefa Cup semi-final at Ibrox.

The visitors dominated possession for long periods but struggled to create clear-cut chances as Rangers held firm.

Martin Jorgensen fired straight at Neil Alexander in the Gers goal before Nacho Novo chipped over from 40 yards as Rangers improved in the second half.

Adrian Mutu had a 30-yard effort saved late on and the teams will now meet in the second leg in Florence on 1 May.

The Scottish side may have been on the back foot for much of the game.

But, as in the quarter-final with Sporting Lisbon, they will be pleased to have prevented their opponents from scoring an away goal.

Rangers, with such a fine away record in Europe this season, played like the away side for much of the contest as they sat back and let the Italians play.

Fiorentina, given so much time on the ball and continually gifted possession as Rangers seemed allergic to the ball at times, patiently probed for an opening.

In the early stages they had almost exclusive possession though Rangers' defence held firm, Mutu and Zdravko Kuzmanovic firing in shots from long range that failed to trouble Alexander.

Rangers played on the counter and solo frontman Jean-Claude Darcheville accelerated down the left only for his cross to be deflected into the arms of Sebastien Frey.

La Viola continued to press Rangers back and Jorgensen forced Alexander to save, but the visitors were worried by Darcheville breaking and twice he was fouled on halfway as he sought to turn and run into space.

The second time, Mario Alberto Santana was cautioned for his rugby tackle on the Frenchman, who was becoming frustrated with the close attention.

Mutu resorted to cheating just before the break, trying to convert a cross with a clear handball, though for some reason the referee decided not the book the former Chelsea striker.

As the second half wore on, Rangers looked more like a side who thought they could get something out of the game and they started to up the tempo.

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Novo got himself into the game, just failing to get on the end of a long ball into the Fiorentina box before he audaciously attempted a 40-yard chip that sailed over Frey's crossbar.

The crowd responded and Rangers boss Walter Smith, sensing a chance for his side to stamp their authority, sent on Thomas Buffel and Daniel Cousin for the hard-working Darcheville and Novo.

But Fiorentina continued to press and they went close when Mutu struck a 30-yard free-kick that Alexander got down smartly to his right to save.

With 10 minutes remaining Pazzini was replaced by Christian Vieri and his first taste of the action was to fire in a free-kick from 25 yards that was deflected over.

But Rangers held on and, with their away record in the Uefa Cup, they must now think they have a real chance of reaching the final in Manchester.


Rangers: Alexander, Broadfoot, Weir, Cuellar, Papac, Novo (Buffel 59), Whittaker, Hemdani, Dailly, Davis, Darcheville (Cousin 59).
Subs Not Used: Graeme Smith, Boyd, Gow, Webster, Faye.

Fiorentina: Frey, Jorgensen, Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Gobbi, Kuzmanovic, Santana, Liverani, Mutu, Montolivo, Pazzini (Vieri 81).
Subs Not Used: Avramov, Kroldrup, Dainelli, Potenza, Osvaldo, Pasqual.

Booked: Santana, Gamberini, Gobbi.

Att: 49,199.

Ref: Kyros Vassaras (Greece).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Rangers' Carlos Cuellar on 7.64 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.




see also
Smith confident of Gers progress
24 Apr 08 |  Rangers
Uefa Cup photos
24 Apr 08 |  Europe


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