Rangers advanced to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League with a 2-1 win over English champions Leeds United at Elland Road. A goal each from the prolific strike duo of Mark Hateley and Ally McCoist lifted the Scottish champions into a 4-1 aggregate lead before Eric Cantona netted a late consolation goal for Leeds.
The Premier League title defense of Leeds had continued to falter in domestic play since the first leg, with the second leg of a 6-3 aggregate victory over Scunthorpe United in the League Cup sandwiched between a defeat at Queens Park Rangers and a 2-2 home draw with Coventry City.
Lee Chapman and Chris Fairclough scored the goals against the Sky Blues, and both were named in the starting lineup here, while injured midfielder David Batty was replaced in the starting 11 by David Rocastle in the only change made from the first leg. Manager Howard Wilkinson kept faith with goalkeeper John Lukic and the same back four, knowing a 1-0 win would see his team advance on the away goals rule.
In midfield, Gary Speed shifted central to replace Batty in a 4-4-2 shape, with Rocastle and Gordon Strachan lining up on the right and left flanks respectively. Imposing target man Chapman paired up front with the skilled French international Cantona.
Rangers will have entered this game in good spirits having secured their first silverware of the season by beating Aberdeen 2-1 in the League Cup Final. The Gers also continued their fine league form, with a McCoist hat-trick lifting them to a 4-2 win over Motherwell for their 9th straight Scottish Premier Division victory.
McCoist partnered Hateley up front in a 4-4-2 for this game, with Dale Gordon replacing fellow Englishman Trevor Steven in midfield as the only change made by manager Walter Smith. Despite holding a 2-1 lead, Smith had made it clear his team would be setting up to attack and hunt more goals in this game.
Russian referee Aleksey Spirin could likely count himself fortunate to be assigned this game by UEFA, as he was in the process of sitting out a 2-month suspension from his home association due to errors made in domestic games.
Rocastle made an early impression on the game as he split the Rangers defense off the dribble and released Cantona with a through ball, only for the Frenchman to be stifled by a combination of John Brown and Andy Goram.
Just as Smith had stated, the attacking intent of Rangers was visible from the off and it did not take long for their approach to pay dividends. In the first leg, an early goal from the visiting team silenced the crowd and that scenario repeated itself here courtesy of a 2nd minute Hateley strike.
Goram sent a long punt forward and Ian Durrant won an aerial duel with Fairclough to flick it forward, the ball bounced before Hateley uncorked a wonderful one touch finish past a wrongfooted Lukic and into the top corner of the net.
The early strike looked to catch Lukic off guard as the goalkeeper failed to set himself before diving and fell clumsily back into the goal as he attempted to save. The goal was a hammer blow to the home crowd, giving Rangers a 3-1 aggregate lead and nullifying any potential away goal tiebreaker advantage Leeds could hold within minutes of the kickoff.
Leeds tried to respond with another Rocastle ball forward to release Cantona but Goram came off his line well again to end the threat. The pattern was repeated again a minute later with a third Rocastle pass to play in Cantona, only for this one to be overhit and sail into the arms of Goram.
The insertion of Rocastle into the starting lineup by Wilkinson appeared to come with the instructions to play forward and penetrate the Rangers back four, as Cantona remained high on the offside line looking to run in behind.
The next foray forward from Rangers came when Durrant released McCoist down the left channel, but the striker skewed his shot high over the bar after cutting inside Jon Newsome.
Leeds won an attacking free kick when Gary McAllister and Rocastle combined to release Speed who was tripped by Stuart McCall. Veteran midfielder Strachan lifted the ball to Whyte at the back post and the defender’s header back across goal bounced around before falling to Fairclough who lifted his shot over the crossbar.
Rangers won a corner when Gordon tried to feed Hateley inside the penalty area and Fairclough intervened to knock the ball behind. An inswinging corner from Durrant forced a pivotal error from Lukic in the first leg, and caused problems again here with the goalkeeper failing to claim the cross before McCoist floated a header into the keeper’s arms for an easy save.
Leeds came forward in the 27th minute and Strachan chipped a cross towards Cantona only for Goram to come out and punch the ball clear.
In an entertaining start to the game, Rangers responded when a throw in from David Robertson was headed on by McCoist to Durrant before the midfielder blasted a shot off target. The roles were reversed a minute later and Durrant produced a clever flick to release McCoist in on goal only for Lukic to come off his line and claim possession.
At the other end, Tony Dorigo launched a ball forward to Chapman who teed up Strachan. The ball was lifted into Cantona, who took the ball on his chest and bore down on goal only to be denied by a sharp Goram save. The resulting corner was cleared behind by Robertson, and a second corner from Strachan was flicked on by Whyte before being cleared off the goal line by McCall.
Leeds won another corner, and once again it was Rocastle at the heart of matters as he drove forward and released Cantona who had his cross blocked by Robertson. Strachan’s corner found its way to Cantona who tried a spectacular overhead kick that was blocked by Dave McPherson. The home team kept up the pressure and another Strachan cross was headed away before a long range shot from Speed was blocked.
Rangers countered immediately and Durrant found McCoist with a raking ball to the back post but the striker’s well hit volley was saved by Lukic.
A bizarre incident occurred when Leeds won a free kick on the halfway line after a McCoist foul on Newsome. By rule, Rangers should have had to defend Dorigo’s impending long ball forward a man down as defender Richard Gough had blood streaming from a cut in his eye. In a situation that may have illustrated why referee Spirin was currently banned by the Russian federation, Gough simply refused to leave the field as rules dictated and demanded treatment without leaving the field of play before the restart.
Dorigo launched the free kick into the penalty area and it was headed clear by the stubborn Gough before Brown finished the job and hooked it clear. Gough showed why it was so important for him to stay on the field by heading clear two more crosses before Cantona won a corner with a cross that bounced behind off Gordon.
Leeds lined up for the corner in a fashion that was familiar from the first leg, when Strachan drove in a cross towards Chapman and Whyte who were occupying the near post area. Rangers were more than prepared for it this time, placing four defenders in that zone to crowd out the threat.
The corner was flicked clear by the defenders, before a second ball into the penalty area from Rocastle was cleared by McCoist.
The home team kept coming forward and McAllister chipped a ball into Chapman who teed up Fairclough only for Brown to block the shot. Less than a minute later, Dorigo skipped past Hateley at the byline and floated a back post cross towards Cantona that Robertson headed behind to concede yet another corner.
Strachan drove in another near post cross that was headed clear by Hateley, before a second cross was half cleared by McCall and fell to McAllister who hit an off balance shot well wide.
With the home crowd lifted, the pressure was being cranked up and McAllister found Cantona who took a touch past Brown and fired a shot that was well saved by Goram. From the subsequent corner, Strachan sent over a deeper cross to the back post area that was comfortably claimed by the Scottish international goalkeeper.
Rangers gained some respite and won a corner of their own when an overlapping Robertson sent in a cross that was headed behind by Whyte. The corner by Durrant was cleared before Ian Ferguson lifted a second ball into the penalty area that was easily claimed by Lukic.
The halftime whistle blew, and while Rangers held a 3-1 aggregate lead their manager Smith will have been relieved for the chance to regroup after his team withstood significant pressure in the latter stages of the half.
Leeds manager Wilkinson would have to rely on his back four to hold strong while he devised a plan to score the two goals needed to draw the tie back level as things stood.
The changes Wilkinson had made from the first leg had shown through in the first half, as switching Strachan to the left wing had subdued the right flank attacking threat from McPherson and Gordon for Rangers.
On the attacking end, just as Speed had done in the first leg, Rocastle was floating inside from the other flank and finding space between Rangers lines while providing service to the front pair of Chapman and Cantona.
With 45 minutes remaining in the tie, this interval would be key for both managers to make adjustments and guide their team towards qualification for the group stages.
Leeds were quick out of the gate in the second half and a Rocastle long throw in was half cleared before Strachan drove a shot wide. A corner kick followed soon after when Gough sliced Dorigo’s cross behind. Strachan drove the corner to the near post area where Goram punched it clear.
Rangers won a corner of their own when Newsome headed behind a Robertson long throw in. The corner was driven to the edge of the penalty area where Brown fired a shot that was deflected behind for another corner. This time Durrant’s corner was headed away as far as Ferguson who unleashed a long range shot that was saved by Lukic.
Leeds continued to search for a crucial goal and Cantona collected a Dorigo throw before sidestepping Brown and forcing another save from Goram.
The home team came forward again and Dorigo sent over a cross that Brown headed into the air before Goram tipped it over his own crossbar. Strachan sent over a corner that found Chapman who guided a header on goal that was saved by Goram.
Leeds kept sending bodies forward in search of a way back into the game but suffered a hammer blow in the 59th minute when a sweeping Rangers counter attack was finished off by McCoist.
Defender Brown stepped in to win possession and the counter attack was launched with a pass to Hateley. The striker flicked the ball to Durrant before running into the left channel and receiving the ball back. Hateley sent a cross over to the back post where McCoist guided home a diving header to send the travelling fans into raptures.
Rangers had proved deadly on the counter attack time and again before this crucial away goal, and this was a threat that would only grow for the remainder of the game as Leeds now needed to push forward and claw back four goals to take an aggregate lead.
Leeds were stung into action and Dorigo found Chapman with a cross only for the target man to direct a header into the hands of Goram.
Well aware of the offensive outburst needed by Leeds to get back into the tie, manager Wilkinson used both of his allotted substitutions to replace Rocastle and defender Fairclough with an attacking duo in the form of Steve Hodge and Rod Wallace. Wallace was immediately involved, beating a defender before sending over a cross that was headed away by Gough.
Wallace was making an instant impact and had a chance less than a minute later when a Speed long throw fell to him, only for Goram to deny the forward with a terrific reflex save.
Fellow substitute Hodge got in on the action by sending in a cross that was headed behind by Durrant for a corner. The first corner was cleared behind by McCall, before another Strachan cross was punched away by Goram and cleared by McCoist.
The ball was pumped forward once more and Leeds received another attacking set play for a foul by McCall on McAllister. Veteran midfielder McAllister stepped up to take the free kick but blasted a wasteful shot well off target.
Leeds won another set play opportunity when a ball was pumped forward to Chapman and he won a corner under pressure from Gough. Long balls forward to Chapman had been a focal point of the Leeds attack all game, with the target man giving the Rangers central defensive duo of Gough and Brown all they could handle.
The corner was cleared, before a second cross into the penalty area was headed away by Gordon as Rangers held firm under pressure.
Rangers manager Smith made his first substitution in the 72nd minute, but the change did not dull the attacking presence of his team any, with Gordon being replaced by crafty attacker Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko.
Leeds won a free kick around the halfway line and lifted another lofted ball into the penalty area that Whyte headed back across goal before Goram claimed the ball under pressure from Wallace.
Rangers continued to provide a threat on the counter and Durrant lifted a ball over the top for McCoist and Newsome received a yellow card for hauling down the striker just inside the Leeds half.
Lively substitute Wallace continued to find space and got on the end of a Dorigo cross before heading well wide.
With Leeds throwing bodies forward in desperate search of a way back into the game, Rangers continued to keep them honest on the counter and Ferguson floated a chipped shot on goal that was comfortably saved by Lukic.
At the other end, Strachan sent in a cross that was headed clear by Gough before Speed was first to the cleared ball and hammered a shot over the crossbar.
Rangers launched another dangerous counter in the 82nd minute that started and finished with Brown. Center back Brown won the ball and then surged forward to get on the end of a Mykhaylychenko cross and head straight at Lukic.
The home team received a late glimmer of hope when Whyte lifted a high ball forward to Chapman who flicked on for Cantona to drive a finish into the far corner and claw the aggregate score back to 4-2.
Leeds came again almost immediately and Speed lifted in a cross that eventually found its way to Hodge who had his shot blocked by Gough.
A long ball forward from Whyte almost paid dividends again when Hodge flicked the ball on to Chapman who teed up Wallace only for Goram to come up with yet another quality save as time ticked away for Leeds.
Rangers conceded a shooting range free kick and received a blow when midfielder Ferguson was booked for a foul on Dorigo. It was Ferguson’s second yellow card of the tournament and meant the midfielder would now be suspended for his teams now inevitable opening group stage game.
Strachan stepped up to take the free kick and his shot was tipped over the crossbar by Goram. Strachan’s corner was headed away by Mykhaylychenko before Rangers launched yet another counter attack that ultimately ended with a shot blasted wide by Hateley.
Leeds refused to lay down and Speed had a shot saved by Goram before a Dorigo cross was headed clear by the impressive Gough.
There was time for one more ball into the penalty area that Goram punched clear before the clock ticked down on a famous victory for the Scottish champions.
The early exit from the UEFA Champions League will have been a bitter blow for Leeds in what was becoming a disappointing season. A week after this game, Leeds were beaten by Watford in League Cup play and bowed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Arsenal after a fourth round replay. In league play, three draws to close out the campaign guided them to a 17th place Premier League finish, only two points above relegation.
On the other hand, with their first trophy of the season secured Rangers would now look to the group stages of the tournament and an opening game at home to French champions and 1991 European Cup finalist Olympique de Marseille.
There would be no letup for Rangers between European games, as the next domestic fixture on the slate was a top of the table Old Firm clash at Celtic Park.
2’ RAN Mark Hateley (Ian Durrant) 0-1
59’ RAN Ally McCoist (Mark Hateley) 0-2
85’ LEE Eric Cantona (Lee Chapman) 1-2
MAN OF THE MATCH
#1 GK Andy Goram (Rangers) – Outstanding performance from Goram who came up with a string of saves to keep Rangers in the ascendancy from whistle to whistle despite significant Leeds pressure.
1: CF Eric Cantona – Showed good movement and threatened in behind consistently before capping his performance with a good goal.
2: CF Lee Chapman – Provided aerial threat and the ability to turn long balls forward into dangerous attacks consistently before assisting Cantona on the consolation goal.
3: LM Gordon Strachan – Consistent attacking threat and provided quality delivery from set plays, Strachan also defended well to dull the attacking threat of McPherson and Gordon.
1: GK Andy Goram – Man of the Match.
2: CD Richard Gough – Powerful presence at the heart of the visiting defense, racking up headers, blocks and tackles to lay the foundation for Rangers progressing to the group stages.
3: CF Mark Hateley – Started the game with a quality goal before a pinpoint cross set up McCoist to double the Rangers lead in the second half.
LEE: Lukic, Dorigo, Whyte, Newsome, Fairclough (Hodge), Strachan, Speed, McAllister, Rocastle (Wallace), Chapman, Cantona.
RAN: Goram, Robertson, Gough, Brown, McPherson, McCall, Durrant, Ferguson, Gordon (Mykhaylychenko), McCoist, Hateley.