By John Leonidou
Ten years ago, Anorthosis Famagusta FC missed out on a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage after losing to Rangers FC. Temuri Ketsbaia's side now have a chance to make up for that painful defeat at the same stage of the tournament.
Few people gave Anorthosis a chance when they went to Ibrox on 9 August 1995. Rangers had invested millions in bringing in distinguished internationals such as Paul Gascoigne, Mark Hateley and Brian Laudrup, but had not done enough research on an Anorthosis side including Bulgarian 1994 FIFA World Cup stars Nikolay Todorov, Ilian Kiriakov and Stojan Ignatov, combined with the electric pace of striker Sinisa Gogic, who would go on to fame with Olympiacos CFP two years later.
Anorthosis gave their hosts a fright in Scotland, with Gogic and Demetris Assiotis both missing good chances before Gordon Durie scored what would prove to be the only goal of the two-legged tie. He recently told Rangers' official website that it may have been the most important goal he scored for the club.
"They made life difficult for us in the first leg and we looked like we would never score," said Durie. "I would say that my goal against Anorthosis was probably the most important I scored for Rangers. Hopefully Rangers will be able to knock out the Cypriots again - but it won't be easy."
Nicos Panayiotou, the charismatic goalkeeper who Durie beat in that game, remembers the fateful shot well. "That goal Durie scored at Ibrox came out of nothing," he told uefa.com. "It never looked like turning into anything until Durie picked up, turned well and fired it past me.
"In my opinion that was the only time Rangers threatened us and we had three of four clear-cut chances to put the tie beyond them in Scotland. We didn't take those chances and it cost us dearly in the second game."
Panayiotou believes Rangers thought they would waltz into the group stages and could easily have been uprooted by Anorthosis. "It wasn't just the media that had us written off before the game but also Rangers who were confident that they would put six or seven past us," he said. "I didn't find that surprising considering that they made some massive signings that year, with players like Gascoigne and Laudrup coming in.
"However, our coach at time, Georgi Vasiliev, had knocked out Rangers with his old club [PFC] Levski Sofia the year before and he told us not to cave in to their boasts that they would beat us easily," added Panayiotou. "He made us believe we could match them and win, something we almost pulled off."
This season, Anorthosis defied the odds by knocking Turkish runners-up Trabzonspor out of the second qualifying round, and with Rangers' local rivals Celtic FC being eliminated by unfancied FC Artmedia Bratislava, manager Alex McLeish will be taking Ketsbaia's team very seriously indeed.
However, forewarned may not necessarily be forearmed for the Scottish club. Panayiotou believes Anorthosis may well have the beating of them. "Looking at the depth and quality in the team now,
I would say that Anorthosis have a very strong chance of knocking out Rangers," he said. "If they perform with the same zest as they did against the Turkish team then Anorthosis will go through."
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