Rangers FC took a significant step towards a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage after defeating Anorthosis Famagusta FC.
Two goals in six second-half minutes from Nacho Novo and Fernando Ricksen gave the Scottish champions a narrow lead in a hard-fought game in Cyprus. Anorthosis almost immediately reduced the deficit through Nikos Frousos to leave Temuri Ketsbaia's side with some hope ahead of the return leg at Ibrox on 24 August.
Julien Rodriguez made his debut at the heart of the Rangers defence just 24 hours after finalising his move from AS Monaco FC, and he soon made an impact, albeit in an unusual attacking guise. The 27-year-old's long early punt upfield almost lead to the opening goal when Marvin Andrews cushioned the ball and teed up Novo whose shot was well saved by goalkeeper Antonis Giorgallides.
Novo then turned provider to set up Andrew Murray but he squandered a great opportunity, and it was Anorthosis, so strong against Turkish outfit Trabzonspor in the last round, who began to dictate the game. Giorgi Kinkladze was a constant menace and after harrying the Rangers defence for much of the first half, his team-mates began to take some of the attacking mantle with the interval approaching and it almost immediately wrought reward.
First Frousos outsmarted Andrews before unleashing a shot which looked destined to find the back of the net until goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus's timely intervention. Then player-coach Ketsbaia tried his luck with a thunderous long-range effort but his effort veered well wide. Ketsbaia, who once plied his trade for Dundee FC in Scotland, was closer two minutes after the restart with a low drive that just missed the upright.
But after absorbing so much pressure, Rangers began to drive forward as the half wore on and they took the lead on 64 minutes. After escaping his marker, Dado Pršo teed up Ricksen, and although the Dutchman's ambitious overhead kick was blocked, the rebound fell to Novo who fired in. Pršo was the instigator again seven minutes later playing in Ricksen, who calmly slid the ball under the on-rushing keeper.
The home side responded well though, and a minute later a mistake from Rodriguez allowed a chance for Frousos who fired past Waterreus, although Anorthosis must score twice in the second leg.
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