Rangers earned their first ever UEFA Champions League win with a 1-0 victory over CSKA Moscow in Germany courtesy of an Ian Ferguson goal. The game was played on neutral ground in Germany after UEFA deemed no stadium in Russia a suitable venue due to the severe climate in winter.
The last ever champions of the Soviet Top League, CSKA had already passed a significant test to reach the group stages of the UEFA Champions League when they dumped FC Barcelona out of the second round courtesy of a 4-3 aggregate victory. Barca had a lineup of world stars including Ronald Koeman, Hristo Stoichkov, Michael Laudrup and Pep Guardiola but were eliminated courtesy of a comeback from two goals down at the Nou Camp by CSKA, with Dmitri Karsakov netting twice.
With their CSKA moniker standing for Central Sports Klub of the Army, the Russian team had significant military influence with a Red Army General serving as chairman and manager Gennadi Kostylev holding the rank of Major.
Captain Dmitri Kharin had played goalkeeper for the famous win in Barcelona but had since departed to sign with Chelsea of the English Premier League and was replaced by Aleksandr Guteev. Two goal hero from the Nou Camp Karsakov was joined in the central midfield of a 3-5-2 shape by Valeri Minko and Evgeni Bushmanov.
Moscow had lost their opening game of the tournament 1-0 at Club Brugge, and were looking for points in their ‘home’ opener here, in front of a limited crowd made up of a Rangers majority and a supportive military band.
Rangers had opened their group stage play with a two goal comeback to take a point against group favorites Marseille, and were boosted here by the return of star striker Ally McCoist to the lineup after he missed the Marseille clash with injury. McCoist served as captain for this game in the absence of defender Richard Gough who limped out of the Marseille draw and was still injured for this game.
In the absence of Gough, Dave McPherson moved over to center back while Trevor Steven dropped into the right back role in a 4-4-2 behind wide midfielder Ian Durrant. McCoist was partnered in attack by powerful target man Mark Hateley, scorer of the equalizing goal against Marseille. Impact substitute Gary McSwegan scored the goal to spark the comeback last time out and remained on the bench here.
CSKA started on the front foot and carved out a golden opportunity within 30 seconds of kickoff as striker Oleg Sergeev was released by a Karsakov through ball. The striker was denied by Andy Goram before the rebound was prodded towards goal before McPherson cleared the ball away from a crowd.
At the other end, Rangers first attack of note came in the 5th minute when an overlapping David Robertson was released by a Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko backheel and the resulting cross was deflected behind for a corner.
The inswinging corner from Durrant was plucked out of the air by Guteev who released Karsakov to start a counter attack that was stalled by a recovering Mykhaylychenko who intercepted a pass that was sprayed wide.
Rangers won another corner when Ferguson was tackled at the byline by Karsakov. Mykhaylychenko sent in a corner that was missed by Guteev and headed clear before the attack was recycled and a blocked shot from Steven resulted in another corner. Mykhaylychenko sent in a high ball that was punched wide by Guteev before Mykhaylychenko charged down the attempted clearance to concede a goal kick.
An entertaining start to the game continued in end to end fashion as a CSKA cross was blocked by Robertson, and a McCoist cross fizzed through the penalty area with no attacker in close proximity. Stuart McCall stepped forward from midfield soon after and hammered a shot that flew wide of the target.
Rangers took a 13th minute lead and the goal was a culmination of a nightmare start for goalkeeper Guteev. Archie Knox had singled out the backup goalkeeper as a potential weakness to TV pundits before the match, and that had played out with a game plan clearly designed to fire in crosses and corners troubled the goalkeeper before his error that led to the game’s decisive goal.
McCall launched a high cross into the penalty area that was completely missed by Guteev before Hateley teed up Ferguson to fire home a deflected shot for a 1-0 Rangers lead.
CSKA thought they had equalized in the 19th minute when Bushmanov hit a shot that deflected off Sergeev and into the net only for an offside flag to spare Rangers.
Moscow continued to pose a threat and a clever backheel from Bushmanov teed up Karsakov to make space for himself before lifting a shot over the crossbar. Karsakov was soon presented with another opportunity when a slick end to end move resulted in an Aleksey Gushchin cross that the midfielder settled before firing wide.
Both teams were playing in a positive, front foot manner and Mykhaylychenko unlocked the CSKA back line with a lofted pass over the top. The ball fell for McCoist who had his shot saved by Guteev before the ball was cleared behind for a corner.
The corner from Mykhaylychenko was cleared at the near post by Dmitri Bystrov before Durrant lofted another ball into the penalty area that was eventually worked clear.
Lively forward Ilshat Faizulin jinked past a couple of defenders before squaring to Karsakov who had his shot blocked. Midfielder Karsakov was consistently finding space as the extra central man in midfield against the flat 4-4-2 of Rangers, allowing him space between lines to feed his front pair or create shots for himself.
Rangers were using a more direct game plan, emphasizing getting crosses into the area to pressure goalkeeper Guteev, and also finding target man Hateley in the buildup. The pattern continued when McCall sent a cross into the penalty area and Hateley rose above Sergey Fokin to head wide.
CSKA came forward again when Bystrov stepped out of defense in possession and fed Minko who fired a shot straight at Goram.
By slotting Steven into the right back role, Rangers manager Walter Smith made Rangers a dangerous attacking force on that flank, and in the 37th minute Steven pushed on and unleashed a shot from long range. Guteev produced a diving save and the rebound fell to McCoist who dragged the chance across goal and wide.
On the other flank, left back Robertson was also joining the attack to good effect, and charged forward to collect a pass from Mykhaylychenko and blazed a ball across goal for what was the final attack of the first half.
The interval arrived with the game poised on a knife edge as CSKA held a slight advantage in possession while Rangers led 9-5 in shots and 5-0 in corners.
In the second period it was Rangers who would start fast as Durrant fed McCoist to spin and force a sharp save from Guteev, before the goalkeeper got up quickly to save the rebound at the feet of Mykhaylychenko.
McCoist was soon involved again as he headed a Steven cross towards goal and Guteev rose above Mykhaylychenko to claim the ball.
The first chance after the interval for CSKA came when Oleg Malyukov stepped out of defense and collected a pass from Karsakov before drilling a powerful shot wide.
Rangers won a wide free kick when Durrant burst out of midfield on the dribble and was hauled down by Aleksey Gushchin, with the wingback receiving a yellow card for the foul. Mykhaylychenko sent the free kick into the penalty area for Hateley to knock down before the defense worked the ball clear.
Rangers came forward again through Robertson who played the ball to a streaking Mykhaylychenko. The impressive winger chipped a cross to Hateley who blasted his finish over the top of the crossbar.
CSKA made their first substitution in the 60th minute as they searched for an equalizer, replacing Minko with Aleksandr Grishin.
Target man Hateley was chopped down by Fokin to award Rangers a wide free kick, and Robertson crossed in the set play for McPherson to head back across goal before it was eventually hacked clear.
Both Rangers fullbacks were getting forward well and Robertson charged forward before lifting a cross into the penalty area that Mykhaylychenko cushioned into the path of Durrant. A first time shot from Durrant was tipped behind for a corner by a diving Guteev. The inswinging corner from Durrant was headed clear before the attack was recycled and a Durrant cutback was ricocheted into the hands of his own goalkeeper by Malyukov.
Manager Kostylev made his second and final substitution in the 67th minute when Gushchin was replaced by Vasili Ivanov.
Rangers created a chance in the 69th minute when Mykhaylychenko dispossessed substitute Grishin and fed Robertson who hammered a long range shot wide. The Scottish champions kept pressing on and right back Steven sent over a high cross that Guteev deflected away under heavy pressure from Hateley.
Chasing an equalizer, CSKA pushed on themselves and carved out a chance when Bushmanov teed up Grishin on the edge of the penalty area, only for the substitute to fire his shot straight at Goram.
With 15 minutes remaining, there was no sign of Rangers sitting back to hold onto their slim lead and Steven pushed on once more to send over a cross. Target man Hateley headed the ball to strike partner McCoist and the layoff fell to McCall only for Fokin to save his team with a last ditch tackle.
Defender Fokin was soon in the thick of the action again, crashing through Hateley on the halfway line, and receiving a yellow card that would see him suspended for CSKA’s next game against Marseille. Brown pumped a long ball forward into the penalty area from the free kick only for Hateley’s flick on to roll harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Substitute Grishin was heavily involved in the latter stages and fired a shot over the crossbar after being teed up by Faizulin as CSKA searched for an equalizer.
The pressure from the Russians kept coming and Ivanov skipped by two defenders out wide before feeding Grishin inside the penalty area. Grishin cut the ball back to Bushmanov who had his shot blocked before the rebound fell to Sergey Kolotovkin who took a heavy touch into the penalty area before fouling defender Brown.
Winger Mykhaylychenko, a veteran of the Soviet Top League with Dymano Kyiv won an 87th minute corner for the Scottish champions when his cross was deflected behind by Bystrov.
Durrant wired a short corner routine with McCall before whipping in a cross that was flicked by the head of Hateley on the way out for a goal kick.
CSKA won a dangerous free kick in the 89th minute when Bushmanov was fouled by McCall, but the chance went to waste as Grishin hammered his long range shot into the two man wall.
The Russians continued to probe for an equalizer against a blue defensive wall in the final minutes and Faizulin played the ball wide to Kolotovkin in the last minute only for the wingback to skew his cross out of play.
There was one more scare in store for Rangers as a clever through ball released Sergeev in on goal only for a recovering Brown to intervene and concede a corner. The set play was taken short only for Faizulin to be crowded out and the ball cleared as the final whistle blew.
The narrow defeat left CSKA with a tough task to stay alive in the tournament, with the group winner progressing to the final Moscow would need a result in their next game against Group A favorites Marseille to keep their hopes alive.
Rangers moved level on points with leaders Marseille courtesy of this result, with the French champions holding a goal differential advantage courtesy of a 3-0 win over Club Brugge in Group A’s other game. Brugge sat one point behind Rangers, and would host the Scottish champions next time out.
In Group B, AC Milan looked like the early favorites to qualify as they won their second straight game courtesy of goals from Frank Rijkaard and Marco Simone in a 2-1 triumph over PSV Eindhoven.
13’ RAN Ian Ferguson (Mark Hateley) 0-1
MAN OF THE MATCH
#11 LM Alexi Mikhailichenko (Rangers FC) – Terrific performance from the wing wizard who will have been a familiar face to Russian fans. Mikhailichenko worked well in tandem with fullback Robertson to provide service from the left, while also putting in an impressive performance on the defensive end.
1: CM Dmitri Karsakov – The playmaker almost assisted on a goal in the opening minute and was the fulcrum of Moscow’s attack throughout the game, finding space and creating shots for both his teammates and himself.
2: CM Evgeni Bushmanov – Oozed quality on the ball and connected passes all game while CSKA gained the upper hand in terms of middle third possession.
3: CF Ilshat Faizulin – Gifted dribbler who tested Rangers time and again with his skill in tight spaces and ability to beat a man.
1: LM Alexi Mikhailichenko – Man of the Match.
2: LD David Robertson – Locked down his side defensively while overlapping and causing CSKA consistent problems going forward.
3: CF Mark Hateley – The powerful target man assisted on Ferguson’s winning goal and was the spearhead of the attack all night, attacking crosses and holding up direct balls well.
CSKA: Guteev, Bystrov, Fokin, Malyukov, Kolotovkin, Bushmanov, Minko (Grishin), Karsakov, Gushchin (Ivanov), Faizulin, Sergeev.
RAN: Goram, Robertson, McPherson, Brown, Steven, Mykhaylychenko, McCall, Ferguson, Durrant, McCoist, Hateley.