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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2006, 21:33 GMT
Rangers 1-0 Partizan Belgrade
By Julian Taylor

Allan Hutton
Hutton celebrates heading his first European goal for Rangers
Rangers held off Partizan Belgrade with a single goal from Alan Hutton at Ibrox to win Uefa Cup Group A.

The defender headed home impressively after 55 minutes, but an experimental Light Blues team laboured for long spells against the bottom side.

Partizan managed to pass up good chances with Nenad Mirosavljevic missing a great early opportunity.

And Allan McGregor superbly turned away a late Nenad Marinkovic volley as Rangers held on to claim the points.

Although Paul Le Guen's team failed to add to their tally, they equalled their record of 12 successive unbeaten games in Europe.

Rangers captain Barry Ferguson and striker Dado Prso were the two big-name players rested for the visit of the struggling Serbs.

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The new-look Light Blues, with seven points from three games, were already through to the knockout stages.

Le Guen left Scotland midfielder Ferguson out lest he pick up a booking which would have ruled him out of the first leg of their last-32 tie in February.

Prso started on the bench with Senegalese international Makhtar N'Diaye making his first start for the club since signing from Rennes in the summer.

Up front, Nacho Novo partnered 1.8million summer signing Filip Sebo - handed a rare start for the home side.

The early moments offered little encouragement.

Partizan's domestic season had shut for the winter almost a fortnight ago but they still looked reasonably sharp.

And they had a great chance to score after only seven minutes when Mirosavljevic messed up a header from close range in spectacular fashion.

Rangers were making hard work of dominating the visitors.

Eventually though, in the 29th minute, Novo played Sebo in with a delightful chip.

But the Slovakian striker hit Partizan goalkeeper Nikolas Asperogenis with his first effort from 10 yards out, and then struck him again with his second attempt.

Thomas Buffel drives forward for Rangers at Ibrox
Thomas Buffel drives forward for Rangers at Ibrox

Midfielder Thomas Buffel could then only strike a free-kick from 25 yards high over the bar, with Rangers lacking the required finesse.

Three minutes before the interval, Novo was played in by Buffel on the left, but the Spaniard's left-footed drive from 16 yards was blocked by Asperogenis.

The Glasgow side finally found the net ten minutes after the restart.

Sebo won a soft free-kick on the right when he was challenged by Marko Lomic.

Novo subsequently curled the ball in, and it was the unlikely figure of Hutton who dived from 12 yards to head into the corner of the net, with Asperogenis stranded.

Partizan midfielder Ivan Tomic responded, and his effort drew a decent save from McGregor.

Novo was replaced by Libor Sionko, with the Czech eager to make an impression.

The Serbian outfit spurned a great chance to equalise in the 79th minute when Mirosavljevic laid the ball back to substitute Ljubisa Vukelja only for the Partizan player to miss the target from just eight yards out.

And with the Ibrox defence losing their concentration, McGregor was forced to pull off a great save from Marinkovic's volley - followed moments later with another good block from the same player's long-range shot.

With Partizan frustrated, the Light Blues kept their nerve to progress in top spot.


Rangers: McGregor, Hutton (Lowing 75), Rodriguez, Svensson, Smith, Hemdani, N'Diaye, Buffel (Stanger 80), Rae, Sebo, Novo (Sionko 64). Subs Not Used: Klos, Clement, Prso, Adam.

Booked: Smith.

Goals: Hutton 55.

Partizan Belgrade: Asprogenis, Rnic, Mihajlov, Djordjevic, Lomic, Zajic, Smiljanic, Tomic, Nebojsa Marinkovic (Vukelja 69), Bosancic (Nenad Marinkovic 67), Mirosavljevic (Gulan 89). Subs Not Used: Jahic, Markovski, Lazic, Radovanovic.

Booked: Mihajlov.

Att: 45,129

Ref: Ruud Bossen (Holland)



SEE ALSO
Le Guen anticipates Uefa Cup run
14 Dec 06 |  Rangers


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