Champions League - Rangers face uphill struggle after defeat

Tue, 26 Jul 21:46:00 2011

Daniel Larsson's first half strike gave Malmo a 1-0 victory over Rangers in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier at Ibrox.

Champions League - Rangers beaten by Malmo

Larsson's emphatic strike means Rangers will have to score twice in Malmo next week - but the Scottish champions have never overturned a deficit in European competition after a first leg defeat at Ibrox.

Rangers toiled for an equaliser throughout the second half but two glaring misses from Steven Naismith leaves Ally McCoist's side with an uphill struggle to qualify for the Champions League.

Malmo stated their intent inside the first minute when the dangerous Larsson pounced on some tentative Rangers defending to roll a left-footed shot just wide of Allan McGregor's goal.

Rangers could have been awarded a penalty a few moments later when Nikica Jelavic appeared to be upended in the box.

But Rangers' problems were in defence and it was not against the run of play when the Swedish champions took an 18th minute lead through Larsson.

Steven Whittaker was robbed of possession outside his own box, allowing Malmo to neatly work the ball to Wilton Figueiredo, whose exquisite flick into the path of Larsson was fired into the roof of the net in forceful fashion.

Malmo's early sense of adventure receded as Rangers began to take control of the match, but their lack of inspiration and creativity in front of goal meant that the visitors were rarely worried.

Steven Davis's delivery from the right-hand side provided Rangers with their main attacking threat, but Jelavic and Naismith were having an abject night in front of goal.

Just as they almost caught Rangers cold at the start of the first half, Malmo should have scored inside the first minute of the second when the superb Figueiredo crossed for Larsson, only for him to miscue his shot from 12 yards.

Figueiredo, the best player on the pitch, almost scored a memorable individual goal when he drove at goal and, with the Rangers defence back-pedalling, unleashed a venomous drive from 25 yards that McGregor did well to tip over his bar.

Ranger dictated the second half, rarely allowing Malmo out of their own half, and it seemed only a matter of time before they were rewarded for their dominance.

But Naismith, so often Rangers' talisman, squandered two identical golden opportunities. Each created by low crosses from Jelavic on the right, Naismith missed from two yards and then three yards as he attempted to steer the ball home as he slid in.

The first chance was marginally the better of the two and, with those chances gone, Rangers' fight dissipated despite continuing to dominate possession.

Malmo survived the late assault on their goal and know that Rangers will have to rewrite their club history if they are to have a chance of reaching the Champions League.

Michael Da Silva - on Twitter: @mjdasilva / Eurosport

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