Rangers FC were gifted an early Christmas present by Mauricio Pochettino's penalty miss as they beat Paris Saint-Germain FC 4-3 on spot-kicks to qualify for the UEFA Cup fourth round at the Parc des Princes stadium.
Pochettino hits crossbar
The win means that Rangers, who have never won on penalties before in Europe, have prolonged their stay in a European competition past Christmas for the first time since the 1992/92 season. The game was decided on the 12th spot-kick when Argentinian defender Pochettino crashed his penalty against the crossbar. For PSG, Pochettino's misfortune means the end of a European run that started back in July as they progressed from the Intertoto Cup to the UEFA Cup.
PSG's Jay-Jay Okocha and Gabriel Heinze, and Bert Konterman and Claudio Caniggia of Rangers had all missed penalties for their sides before the shoot-out moved into the sudden-death phase. Before Pochettino had missed, Barry Ferguson had put Rangers 4-3 ahead.
The match, as with the first-leg tie in Glasgow, had ended goalless after extra time. But Rangers entered the penalty decider at a psychological disadvantage after Ronald de Boer missed a spot-kick with only three minutes of extra time remaining. Caniggia had won that penalty after referee Hartmut Strampe ruled that the Argentinian had been fouled by PSG goalkeeper Lionel Letizi. But De Boer missed his spot-kick just as he had done in the 1998 FIFA World Cup semi-final for Holland against Brazil. With Rangers poised to progress to the fourth round having survived 117 minutes in Paris, the Dutchman skied his penalty over the bar.
The game itself had swung this way and that, though with the contrast in styles it was never really thrilling until the penalties started to be missed. While Rangers were quick and incisive on the counterattack, PSG favoured a more methodical style, building up slowly and deliberately. The contrast initially saw Rangers controlling the game and really Dick Advocaat's side should have gone in at the interval at least three goals in front. That they did not was primarily due to the poor finishing of Tore Andre Flo. Twice the Norwegian international had heading opportunities, but twice he missed. First Letizi denied him with a splendid save and then his effort was too tame.
After the interval Rangers failed to maintain their control and PSG took hold of the game. This was primarily due to the persistence of Ronaldinho and the introduction of Nicolas Anelka midway through the second half. The Brazilian Ronaldinho was a constant threat with his dribbling skills and Anelka considerably sharpened the PSG attack once he had adjusted to the pace of the game.
Rangers coach Dick Advocaat said: "We were lucky to win the shootout. But I'm happy for myself, for the team and above all for the 10,000 fans who came from Scotland to support us in Paris. When you miss an opportunity just before the end, as we did tonight, your morale is very low but we survived."
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