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Rangers rally to hold Villarreal
February 23, 2006 03:39 IST
Last Updated: February 23, 2006 09:04 IST
Champions League Last 16 first leg
Rangers twice came from behind to rescue a 2-2 home draw with Villarreal in their Champions League first knockout round first leg clash on Wednesday.
Ragged Rangers were a goal down after eight minutes following a crazy handball by Croatian striker Dado Prso who clawed down a corner by Juan Roman Riquelme for a penalty.
Argentine Riquelme rifled the spot kick high into the middle of the net and seven minutes later Rodriguez Gonzalo appeared to have tucked home a second at the back post, but the flag had been raised for offside.
Rangers levelled with a wonderful strike from Peter Lovenkrands after 22 minutes following a fabulous run by Chris Burke. He charged beyond two players before stumbling and somehow squeezing the ball sideways to the Dane in the penalty arc and Lovenkrands lashed it into the top left corner from outside the box.
The Spanish Champions League debutants restored their lead 13 minutes later through Diego Forlan, with the Rangers players left appealing in vain for an offside flag.
The visitors, who entered the competition in the qualifying stage, then ran the game down in a frustrating second half which prompted Rangers fans to chant for the introduction Belgian Thomas Buffel.
Manager Alex McLeish duly obliged by replacing Tunisian Hamed Namouchi with Buffel after 69 minutes.
The switch paid off eight minutes from time when Buffel swerved in a cross from the far side of the box which Pena stretched to reach but succeeded only in sending looping over his own keeper.
McLeish said he was frustrated on two counts - Forlan's goal, which he said made a mockery of the current offside law, and a rejected late penalty appeal.
Italian Alessio Tacchinardi appeared to handle a cross inside the area and McLeish said: "Billy Thomson, our goalkeeping coach, said it was a stonewaller and that he moved his hand to the ball.
"So we might have nicked it in the end if that was the case. But I don't want to say I believe that until I see it myself."
The former centre back, who is standing down at the end of the season, was left shaking his head about the Forlan goal.
The Uruguay striker was five metres offside but play was allowed to continue as the ball was collected by Gonzalo, only for his mis-control to push the ball into the path of the then-onside Forlan to score.
He was full of praise for his players, however: "Their efforts were fantastic. We could play better but the spirit, attitude and passion, it was there," he said.
"We have played against a very, very good side tonight and you can see how important Riquelme is to the team because he was different class."
Villarreal coach Manuel Pelligrini said, via an interpreter, "We should have won, but that's not very important, all we have to do is finish the job when we get home."
He declined to discuss the personal problems that caused him to miss his team's training session on Tuesday."
UEFA Champions League 2005-06: The Complete Coverage