Thursday, 25 November 2010

Rangers pay the penalty

Battling away on the big screen...
After Rangers' heroic defensive efforts at Old Trafford and a home result against Valencia that did not do justice to their efforts, I tucked into an Irish pub in North London to watch the second Champions League showdown with Manchester United. The Boston Arms in Tufnell Park was showing three games. The other two were Spurs versus Werder Bremen (whom I had seen pre-season facing Fulham at Craven Cottage) and Barcelona away to Panathinaikos. Curiously, I started out being the only person in the entire establishment watching the Scottish-English clash. Later in the second half I was joined by two extravagantly well-fuelled Arsenal supporters whose vocally unflattering take on Wayne Rooney meant that they, too, would have been happy to see a Glasgow victory. Sadly, it was not to be.

Without Madjid Bougherra, Sasa Papac and Maurice Edu, the 'Gers (who I should stress I would not dream of supporting other than in European competition) still looked well organised and very determined. In a first half which was more about survival than adventure, they had their fair share of the ball but struggled to know what to do with it. There were few clear-cut chances at either end, with United inevitably looking far more menacing. The quality, pace and excitement ratcheted up a notch or two after the break,  thankfully. But in the end it was a penalty converted by the otherwise uninspiring Rooney that ended up separating the two teams after 180 minutes of football. That in itself is a considerable achievement for Walter Smith's men, whose reward is a crack at the Europa League. Almost certainly, they will not have the depth of squad to cope, and their final CL group stage match against Bursaspor will likely prove the 'Gers last appearance in the Champions League proper for some time, what with the coefficient further downgrading Scotland's stake in the competition.

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