New signing Lee McCulloch scored to help Rangers FC to a 2-0 win against FK Zeta in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round tie at Ibrox last night. Second-half goals by David Weir and McCulloch salvaged what was an otherwise poor match by all reports. I’ve only caught extended highlight packages of the match but to me the rust was showing for both sides as there was a decided lack of sharpness about the passing and finishing.
Rangers gave the impression that they were going to run away with things early on. They started the match at high temp with Kris Boyd firing a shot against the post at the 9 second mark. The match settled into a slower pace with both sides looking to hit on the counter-attack. You can catch 1st half and 2nd half highlight packages over on YouTube. Despite the result, Rangers will be without Alan Hutton in next Tuesday’s return in Montenegro after the full-back received two yellow cards.
In other qualifying first-legs contested last night, Shakhtar Donetsk defeated Armenian champions FC Pyunik by a score of 2-nil with goals from Oleksandr Gladkiy and Brandão. Daniel Mobaeck’s lone goal gave Sweden’s IF Elfsborg the edge over Debreceni VSC in a closely contested match.
There were a couple of upset results as well. PFC Levski Sofia’s bid to reach the group stage for the second straight year suffered a blow as they lost 1-0 away to Finnish champs Tampere United. It sets up a tricky home tie for Sofia as Tampere can come in and play a very tight defensive system and look to counter-attack for an away goal.
FK Sarajevo pulled off one of the biggest results in their history when they came away from KRC Genk with a 2-1 victory. Sarajevo’s only previous trip to Belgium had resulted in a 6-1 defeat by RSC Anderlect in the 1982/83 UEFA Cup. They are now on course to win two ties in a European competition for the first time since that 82-83 season after a dramatic success tonight gave them the advantage ahead of their home return next Wednesday.
A breakaway strike in the second half by Daniel Mobaeck gave Sweden’s IF Elfsborg the edge over Debreceni VSC in a closely contested first leg in Hungary. FC København also moved closed to another group stage appearance as Marcus Allbäck scored the only goal of their second qualifying round first leg against Beitar Jerusalem FC.
There are more first-leg ties scheduled for today and I’ll check in tomorrow with a recap of the action.