Glasgow Rangers remained joint top of UEFA Champions League Group A afer a 1-1 draw at Club Brugge, who sit one point behind Rangers and Marseille after this entertaining affair. Tomasz Dziubinski opened the scoring just before the interval after an impressive first half from the home team. Rangers responded well in the second half and earned a point courtesy of a 72nd minute Peter Huistra equalizer.
We interview Rangers legendary full back David Robertson as part of our accompanying podcast series. Subscribe today to listen to this and our many more episodes.
Brugge came into this game looking to respond after being beaten 3-0 by group leaders Marseille in Matchday 2. Foeke Booy was paired with 20-year old Nigerian striker Daniel Amokachi in attack, while Gert Verheyen lined up as the attacking central midfield player in a 3-5-2 shape for the Belgian champions. The game would be played in front of a rowdy but limited home crowd, with attendance capacity slashed from 32,000 to 20,000 due to UEFA restrictions.
For Rangers, Scott Nisbet and Huistra were handed their first starts of the tournament group stage by Walter Smith. Trevor Steven made way for Huistra, while Ian Durrant was named on the bench after failing to make a full recovery from injury. Mark Hately and Ally McCoist were the strike pair for Rangers in their now familiar 4-4-2 shape.
The game started at a frenetic pace, and Nisbet found himself in the referee’s book early for a foul on Dziubinski. Brugge continued on the front foot and won a crossing range free kick soon after for a foul by John Brown on Amokachi. The free kick was lofted towards the back post area where Huistra headed it away, before Peter Creve picked up possession and won a corner under pressure from Hateley.
The low corner from Creve was cleared away the first time, before a subsequent long throw fell to Amokachi and the first time shot was blocked by David Robertson to concede another corner as the early pressure continued. The inswinging corner from Creve was cleared by Andy Goram before a foul on the goalkeeper saw the whistle blow to earn Rangers some respite.
Rangers launched an attack for the first time when Robertson effortlessly dribbled by Verheyen before sending over an errant cross that floated harmlessly out of play.
The home team had started on the front foot and that pattern continued when Alex Querter was fouled by Neil Murray out wide The deep cross from Creve was headed back across goal by Booy before Hateley headed it away. The attack was recycled but an offside flag was raised after Franky Van der Elst tried to release Amokachi with a measured through ball.
The majority of early attacks from the visitors were coming in aerial fashion, and Robertson swung in a high cross that Dany Verlinden fumbled on the edge of the penalty area before Brugge launched a counter attack that ended in a shot wide from Amokachi.
Rangers won an attacking set play when Huistra skipped by Vital Borkelmans out wide before being brought down by Brown. The resulting free kick was headed behind to concede a corner, before Huistra sent in a deep cross that Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko fired wide of the target.
Brugge oozed quality on the ball and displayed it yet again in the 12th minute when a sweeping end to end move culminated in Creve crossing for Booy to direct a header wide. A more direct type of counter attack was soon on display from Rangers as a long punt upfield by Goram was settled by McCoist, leading to a cross from Stuart McCall that was headed wide by Hateley. This phase of play was a reflection of the game pattern, with the measured possession of Brugge countered with the ability of Rangers to create chances while going direct.
A clever backheel from Dziubinski released Borkelmans to play a ball forward that Brown knocked behind for a corner under pressure from Booy. The resulting corner was punched away by Goram only for Van der Elst to hammer a shot that cannoned back off the underside of the crossbar.
Despite facing heavy spells of pressure, Rangers kept showing an attacking threat of their own, and a Robertson long throw was flicked on by Hateley for McCoist who fired a shot straight at Verlinden. The Scottish champions soon came forward again but a long range Hateley shot was comfortably saved by Verlinden.
The game continued in end to end fashion and a clever touch by Amokachi set up Dziubinski to drive a shot over the crossbar. Minutes later, a long ball forward resulted in a Brugge free kick when Robertson fouled Amokachi. The free kick was lifted into the penalty area by Querter but Brown came up big to head the ball clear.
Wingback Creve came forward in the 34th minute and exchanged passes with Booy before swinging in a cross for Amokachi to cut in front of Dave McPherson and fire a diving header wide.
The flanks were proving a fruitful form of attack for both teams, and Nisbet stepped forward before sending over a cross that found McCoist. The striker settled the ball before spinning and chipping a shot onto the crossbar before Mykhaylychenko headed wide with the goal gaping.
The chances kept coming at both ends in an entertaining game and Brown headed away a long throw before Borkelmans rifled a shot that was saved by Goram. Brugge were full of quality and confidence going forward and minutes later, defender Lorenzo Staelens arrived in the Rangers penalty area to meet a Creve cross only to have his effort saved by Goram.
At the other end, Verlinden left his goal to beat Hateley to a ball and hit a clearance that fell to Mykhaylychenko. The winger chipped a shot over the retreating goalkeeper, only for Querter to head away off the goal line.
With halftime approaching, Brugge finally broke the deadlock and it was a long throw that did the damage. Creve sent the ball into the penalty area and Booy headed the ball into the air before pressuring Mylhaylychenko into a poor clearance that fell to Dziubinski and the midfielder fired a good finish past Goram to put the home team in front.
Going into the interval, Brugge will have felt they deserved their lead having shown quality on the ball and ability to consistently break opposing lines during the first half.
While having to weather significant pressure on the defensive end, Rangers were showcasing a different kind of threat with the strike pair of Hateley and McCoist showing the ability to hold up direct balls forward with their back to goal and help their team create chances.
The contrast in systems used by the teams provided an interesting contrast throughout the game. The extra central midfield in a 3-5-2 against a 4-4-2 served Brugge well with Verheyen often finding space in advanced positions. On the other hand, Rangers often found space and an extra number out wide with their fullback and wide midfielder attacking a Brugge wingback.
It was a long throw that would provide the first attacking opportunity of the second half for Rangers, but Robertson’s high ball towards Hateley was ultimately cleared away by Staelens.
At the other end, the pace and movement of Amokachi was an ever present threat and Borkelmans strode forward out of defense before releasing the Nigerian striker to fire a shot wide.
Rangers created a golden chance to equalize when McCoist crossed to the back post and Mykhaylychenko’s header back across goal found Hateley who was denied by a sharp Verlinden save. The rebound fell to Huistra but his shot was blocked by Creve.
With their tails up, Rangers came forward again and Huistra jinked by several defenders before his low cross was cleared behind by Verheyen for a corner. Huistra’s corner was headed away at the near post before falling to Murray who fizzed a shot over the crossbar.
The livewire Amokachi remained a threat at the other end and picked up possession out wide before cutting inside Nisbet and firing another shot wide. Rangers countered almost immediately and Robertson teed up McCoist to force a save from Verlinden.
Rangers were attacking with renewed vigor in the second half and a Mykhaylychenko cross resulted in a corner. Huistra sent in a cross that fell to McCoist who had his shot crowded out by the defense. Rangers came again soon after and a Huistra free kick was cleared to McCall who forced a save from Verlinden.
Brugge won a 52nd minute corner when Amokachi was released by Verheyen and set up Dziubinski to release a shot that Nisbet deflected wide. The corner was cleared by Hateley before Brugge came again and Booy skewed a shot well off target.
The Belgian champions looked confident in possession throughout the game and attempted to double their lead when Verheyen carried the ball forward from midfield and guided a shot wide. On the other hand, Rangers continued to attack in more quickstrike fashion and Huistra won the ball high up the field before releasing McCall who dragged his shot wide of the goalpost.
Wingback Borkelmans went into the referee’s book in the 60th minute, when he received a yellow card from Antonio Martin Navarrete for hauling down Huistra.
As the game entered the final half hour, Rangers pushed forward and central defender Brown made a notable effort to join the attack in search of an equalizer. First, Brown fired a shot over the bar before chasing a ball into the channel minutes later and drawing a foul from Querter. Defender Querter received a yellow card for the challenge, meaning he would be suspended for the upcoming rematch at Ibrox in Matchday 4.
Mykhaylychenko sent over the free kick and a half clearance fell to Huistra, who dribbled past several defenders before the ball just rolled out for a goal kick Dutch winger Huistra was soon in behind again as he chased down a well weighted through ball by McCall before sending over a cross that was just out of the reach of McCoist. Minutes later, Rangers attacked once more and Hateley teed up McCall to fire a shot over the bar.
In the 67th minute, Rangers created a golden chance to equalize, and once again it was a central defender stepping forward into the attack that caused Brugge problems. McPherson carried the ball forward before feeding Huistra and charging into the penalty area. Huistra twisted and turned before chipping a cross to McPherson, only for Verlinden to keep Rangers out with a magnificent reflex save.
Brugge countered immediately and Creve played a ball in behind to release Amokachi, only for Goram to come off his line and make the save.
Rangers kept coming forward and left back Robertson carried the attack before crossing to McCoist who settled the ball and span to shoot wide.
The equalizer would finally come in the 72nd minute from a corner that was awarded when Brown released Hateley and the striker’s cross was deflected behind. Mykhaylychenko sent in a corner that was partially cleared before falling to McCall who dragged a shot across goal that found its way to Huistra at the back post and the winger slammed a good finish past Verlinden to level the scores.
The goal included a clever piece of play by McCoist, who had the chance to gain possession but instead stepped away to clear a path for the ball to reach Huistra who was in a better position to shoot.
Livewire forward Amokachi remained a threat for Brugge and he was released by a well weighted Verheyen through ball only to have his shot blocked by Robertson. The attacks came in waves and Goram punched away a Creve cross before Van der Elst was dispossessed by Murray on the edge of the penalty area.
With both teams looking for the win, Hateley won the ball from Rudi Cossey before squaring to Mykhaylychenko who drove a shot straight at Verlinden.
Brugge won a 78th minute corner when Brown stepped over to knock the ball away from a charging Amokachi. Creve swung in a corner that Brown cleared before Murray charged down a Verheyen shot on the edge of the penalty area.
Manager Hugo Broos made his first substitution of the game in the 80th minute, replacing Creve with Claude Verspaille on the right flank.
Referee Navarrete awarded an attacking free kick to Rangers as the game ticked into the final 10 minutes for a foul by Verheyen on McCall. Brown hammered a long range shot on goal from the set play that was comfortably saved by Verlinden.
Rangers boss Smith made a change of his own when right back Nisbet was replaced by Steven Pressley with the game hanging in the balance.
The visitors carved out an 86th minute chance when Murray found McCoist but the resulting long range shot fizzed over the top of the crossbar.
Brugge came forward less than a minute later and once again it was Verheyen who strode forward from midfield before his shot deflected behind for a corner off Robertson. With Creve now removed from the action, Van der Elst took over set play duties and his cross was headed well wide by Cossey.
The home team won another corner when a sweeping move culminated in a Verspaille cross being sliced behind by McCoist. Dziubinski lofted in a cross that found Verheyen who hammered a shot on goal that was blocked.
Defender Brown continued to contribute going forward and found McCoist who shot high and wide under pressure from Cossey.
There was time for one more attack as the game ticked into injury time, but Booy fired off target after collecting a Verspaille cross before the final whistle blew.
Courtesy of a 1-1 draw between CSKA Moscow and Marseille elsewhere in Group A, this result kept Rangers second behind Marseille separated only by goal difference at the halfway mark in group stage play.
Brugge sat one point behind Rangers and Marseille in third place, with a rematch of this game at Ibrox Stadium next up in Matchday 4. With a place in the final up for grabs for the group winner at stake, both teams would be going all out for a win in Glasgow, and Rangers boss Smith will have been hoping for the return of star man Durrant and defender Richard Gough to the starting 11. For Brugge, defender Querter would be suspended for the game in Glasgow, manager Broos will have been looking for a defender to step up as the lead candidate to replace him in their upcoming domestic games.
In the tournament’s other group, AC Milan won their third straight game to move into pole position courtesy of a Jean-Pierre Papin winning goal against Porto. IFK Goteborg sat in second place after a 3-1 win at PSV Eindhoven, with Johnny Ekstrom scoring twice.
44’ BRU Tomasz Dziubinski (Foeke Booy)
72’ RAN Peter Huistra (Stuart McCall)
MAN OF THE MATCH
#6 CD John Brown (Rangers FC) – Colossal performance from the towering center back who engaged in a physical battle with Booy and also contributed well in possession, driving the attack forward and playing a number of quality line breaking passes.
1: CM Tomasz Dziubinski – Clever playmaker who was full of skill and tricks, capping an excellent performance with the game’s opening goal.
2: CM Gert Verheyen – Playing in the attacking central midfield role, Verheyen drove the attack forward and created a host of chances for the strike pair of Booy and Amokachi.
3: CF Daniel Amokachi – Fast and powerful attacking threat who stretched the Rangers back line all game, keeping Brown and McPherson occupied and getting off a number of dangerous shots.
1: CD John Brown – Man of the Match.
2: CF Mark Hateley – Powerful target man who held up play well and was the focal point of most Rangers attacks.
3: RM Peter Huistra – Tricky winger who danced past defenders consistently before firing home the equalizing goal to cap a quality display.
BRU: Verlinden, Cossey, Querter, Staelens, Borkelmans, Dziubinski, Van der Elst, Verheyen, Creve (Verspaille), Booy, Amokachi.
RAN: Goram, Robertson, McPherson, Brown, Nisbet (Pressley), Mykhaylychenko, Murray, McCall, Huistra, McCoist, Hateley.