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Page last updated at 22:24 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 23:24 UK

Rangers fall at final hurdle

By Colin Moffat

Barry Ferguson
Rangers captain Barry Ferguson suffered defeat in the final
The beaten Rangers team lay deflated on the turf after falling at the final hurdle of what has been a fantastic European adventure.

But they were quickly back on their feet to salute their magnificent following at the City of Manchester Stadium.

The 25,000 or so Rangers fans in the ground sang their hearts out but could not inspire one last push from their favourites.

Many more had made the journey.

Manchester could not have been any busier if The Smiths, New Order and Stone Roses all re-formed and played a one-off, free gig in Heaton Park.

With the incredible army of fans in great spirits on a sun-drenched day, everything was in place for Walter Smith's players to go on and win the club's second European trophy - 36 years on from the Cup Winners' Cup triumph over Dynamo Moscow in Barcelona.

Rangers manager Walter Smith
Smith has transformed Rangers in his second spell in charge

But there was to be Russian revenge.

A tense, scrappy match was settled when a sublime pass from Andrei Arshavin set Igor Denisov up to slip the ball under Neil Alexander on 72 minutes.

Dmitri Shostakovich was a follower of Zenit when they laboured in the lower regions of Soviet football and the great composer would have taken symphonic inspiration from the playmaker's arrowed delivery through the heart of the Rangers defence.

A last-gasp sucker-punch from Konstantin Zyrianov wrapped up a memorable night for Zenit St Petersburg.

Rangers have been stuffy and disciplined throughout the run to the final and Plan B was always going to be a problem.

Zenit celebrate
Zenit broke Rangers' hearts with a late double

Substitutes Nacho Novo, Lee McCulloch and Kris Boyd did not have time to sharpen what had been a blunt attack, although we would have had extra-time if the little Spaniard hadn't blazed over a great chance on 90 minutes.

Prior to that, the Ibrox side could only muster one shot on target, while Steven Whittaker's effort was deflected narrowly wide.

Zenit, managed by former Ibrox boss Dick Advocaat, were the more positive side but the Russian champions looked far from world-beaters and that will only heighten the sense of frustration felt in Glasgow.

These occasions do not come along often for Scottish clubs.

However, Rangers have no time to feel sorry for themselves.

Smith's weary troops must get ready to go again on Saturday lunch-time for a league visit to Fir Park.

A trip to Love Street follows on Monday, with the last round of the SPL taking Rangers to Pittodrie on Thursday evening.

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It's an energy-sapping schedule which leaves less than 48 hours to prepare for the Scottish Cup final against Queen of the South on 24 May.

When Smith was reappointed at Ibrox in January 2007, not even the most optimistic of Rangers fans could have been dreaming of a domestic Treble and a European final this season.

The road to Manchester will live long in the memory of Rangers fans and, with two more trophies within reach, this story has every chance of a happy ending.




see also
Zenit St Petersburg 2-0 Rangers
14 May 08 |  Europe
Uefa Cup final as it happened
14 May 08 |  Europe
Uefa Cup fans clash with police
15 May 08 |  Manchester
Uefa Cup final photos
14 May 08 |  Football


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