Villarreal CF and Rangers FC both earned narrow victories on Saturday as they prepared for Tuesday's return meeting, with the Spanish side holding a marginal advantage after the first game at Ibrox finished 2-2.
Villarreal CF 3-2 Deportivo Alavés
Villarreal produced a spirited display against Alavés as Argentinian international Juan Román Riquelme, who had shaken off a back injury, again played a starring role. Villarreal have not lost at El Madrigal in the league since a 2-0 defeat against FC Barcelona on 4 December, but twice had to come from behind before finally overcoming Alavés. John Aloisi gave the visitors an early lead before Riquelme's corner found the net nine minutes later, only for Enrique De Lucas to make it 2-1 at the break. Riquelme scored his second after being set up by Guillermo Franco's header on 62 minutes, and Franco turned scorer on his home debut for Villarreal to secure victory on 82 minutes.
Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini - who also welcomed back Quique Álvarez after a hamstring injury although Antonio Guayre (rib), Juan Pablo Sorín (thigh) and Juan Peña (suspended) were all missing - said: "It was a well-deserved and important win. We didn't play well in the first half, but managed to correct that after the break. The three points are important in our fight for the top six and also a morale boost for Tuesday's match." Villarreal drew 1-1 with Athletic Club Bilbao last week, while since the first leg with Rangers Brazilian-born midfielder Marcos Senna has impressed on the international stage after making his debut for Spain in the 3-2 win against Ivory Coast.
Falkirk FC 1-2 Rangers FC
Rangers consolidated third place in the Scottish Premier League with a slender success away at Falkirk. Free-scoring striker Kris Boyd gave Rangers the lead 12 minutes into the second half by heading in Barry Ferguson's free-kick for his sixth league goal since joining the club in January but Russell Latapy equalised nine minutes later with a shot from inside the penalty area. Mark Twaddle's unfortunate own goal then restored Rangers' lead with 20 minutes remaining and the away team successfully preserved their lead to maintain their hopes of overhauling second-placed Heart of Midlothian FC.
Chris Burke and Ian Murray (both flu), Thomas Buffel and Hamed Namouchi, who picked up a knee injury in action for Tunisia last week, missed the trip to Falkirk, while Olivier Bernard made his first appearance since November. "It was a tough game and we had to make some enforced changes which didn't help," said Rangers manager Alex McLeish. "I was happy with the goals that we scored but their equaliser was due to a lack of concentration. In the end it was a good result ahead of Tuesday's game but the boys all know they can play a lot better than that."
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