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Rangers suffer heartbreak in Manchester

Two second half goals were enough for the Russians to claim their first European trophy as their flowing football triumphed over Rangers containing tactics.

Rangers journey to the final of the Uefa Cup has been based on obdurate defending and waiting for that one moment to strike.

The fact they had only won two of their last twelve European encounters testifies to their stubborn displays.

There opponents Zenit St Petersburg were technically more accomplished and enjoyed the majority of possession as they virtually encamped in the Rangers half in the first forty five minutes.

After only four minutes Barry Ferguson lost possession and Andrei Arshavin fired into the side netting as the Russians made all the early running.

Radek Sirl then hit a left foot free kick direct at keeper Neil Alexander but Rangers had a brief glimpse of goal when Sirl made a last ditch tackle on Ferguson as he prepared to connect with a Jean-Claude Darcheville cross.

In fact Darcheville was the only outlet for Rangers to relieve pressure on their overworked defence.

But still Zenit poured forward with the Ibrox outfit content to defend in depth.

Viktor Fayzulin should have done better with a heading opportunity then Alexander caught an Alexander Anyukov effort at the second attempt.

The Gers then had a brief period in the Zenit half but could only manage a Steven Whittaker header over the bar and Walter Smith's team then failed to take advantage of a free kick in a dangerous position.

But Rangers had a fortunate escape just before the break when the ball clearly struck Kirk Broadfoot's arm but despite the vigorous appeals of the Zenit players, Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt refused to award a penalty.

The second period was a more open affair as Rangers began to create chances.

A tremendous goalmouth scramble following a Darcheville shot saw Ferguson turn the ball goalwards only for the ball to hit Igor Denisov on the arm but again the referee was unimpressed and only awarded a corner.

Steven Whittaker then had an effort deflected narrowly wide but Zenit were still dangerous on the break.

Arshavin broke clear and rounded Alexander who had come outside the penalty area but his attempted chip was headed off the line by Sasa Papac.

But the Russians were not to be denied and they took the lead on 71 minutes.

A swift interchange of passes saw Arshavin thread the ball through to Igor Denisov who calmly slotted past Alexander to the delight of the 9,000 Zenit supporters.

The Ibrox boss made three swift substitutions to try and change the course of the game but it was the Russian League Champions who could have clinched the game when Konstantin Zyrianov clipped the outside of the post.

With Rangers pushing forward they were leaving gaps at the back but now it was Zenit who were content to play the containing game.

Three minutes off added time was not enough for Rangers although substitute Novo Nacho did blast over from ten yards when well positioned.

Zenit added a decisive second through Zyrianov in the final seconds to end Rangers European dream.

About the author

Tribal Football Staff

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