Rangers FC joined arch-rivals Celtic FC as one of the biggest clubs ever to be knocked out in the second qualifying round as Walter Smith offered "no excuses".
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A 2-1 win in Lithuania saw FBK Kaunas take full advantage of the 0-0 draw they earned at Ibrox last week to send the beaten 2007/08 UEFA Cup finalists crashing out of the UEFA Champions League. "It was an extremely poor performance," said Smith. "It seems ridiculous that you can reach a European final and then get knocked out in the first game of the next season, but that's what's happened."
The Scotsman newspaper wrote of "an utterly desperate evening for Rangers" which saw "the kudos and credibility earned from last season's march to the UEFA Cup final washed away along with the £10m (€12.5m) bounty provided by qualification for the group stage". Smith added: "I don't know if the players were anxious or nervous but there can be no excuses."
Now Celtic fans can revel in the same kind of schadenfreude that Rangers enjoyed in the wake of the Hoops' 2005/06 exit at the hands of FC Artmedia Petržalka. The Slovakian side humiliated Gordon Strachan's men with a 5-0 win in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie, and while Celtic got to 4-0 in the return fixture, they fell short of atoning for that dark night in Bratislava.
The first leg was Strachan's first match as Celtic coach, and the former Aberdeen FC, Manchester Uniter FC and Leeds United AFC midfielder was left shaken afterwards. "It is my worst night in football without question and disappointment would be well down my list of adjectives," said Strachan. The Scottish Sun mercilessly headlined their match report "Brats 5 Prats 0" and talked of "a £10m disaster" for the Bhoys. Nothing changes.
The second qualifying round has claimed a number of big names since its inception in the 1998/99 season – previously there was just a preliminary round and a qualifying round before the group stage – though perhaps only former Soviet rivals FC Dynamo Kyiv and PFC CSKA Moskva and Turkish titans Beşiktaş JK can rank alongside Rangers and Celtic in terms of damaged European prestige.
CSKA lost 4-2 on aggregate to Norway's Molde FK in the 1999/00 second qualifying round, and then bowed out 3-2 on aggregate against Macedonian champions FK Vardar in the 2003/04 edition. Beşiktaş lost on away goals to Hapoel Haifa FC in the 1999/00 competition, while two-time UEFA Cup Winners' Cup winners Dynamo bowed out to FC Thun on the same night that Artmedia ended Celtic's run in 2005.