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By Alex O'Henley at Ibrox
Panathinaikos FC produced a display of immaculate finishing to earn a place in the UEFA Cup and end Rangers FC's European dream with a gritty 3-1 UEFA Champions League Group E win in Glasgow.
Michael Mols had given the Scottish champions the lead in the 28th minute but an equaliser from Raimondas Zutautas along with two splendid second-half strikes from Angelos Basinas and Michalis Konstantinou gave the Greek side the three points which ensured Rangers finished bottom of the section.
With his squad depleted by the loss of Shota Arveladze and the Brazilian Emerson on the eve of the game, Alex McLeish was forced to field two of untried youngsters. The 20-year-old Chris Burke made his European debut and Scottish Under-21 international Stephen Hughes also started in central midfield.
Hughes was the first to make an impression in the fourth minute when Capucho almost got on the end of a pass from the halfway line, but the ball skidded on the greasy surface and fell kindly for goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis.
With Konstantinou ploughing a lone furrow up front, Panathinaikos's early attacks were few and far between. With 20 minutes gone, Burke almost unlocked the Panathinaikos defence with a deep cross from the right. Capucho was waiting to head it in at the far post but Giannis Goumas stepped in to head the ball away for a corner.
Rangers were making progress down each flank and shortly before the half-hour they opened the scoring. Michael Ball swung in a cross from near the left-hand corner flag and Mols headed high past Nikopolidis from six metres out for his first goal in this season's campaign.
It was the opening goal the Ibrox crowd had hoped for but four minutes later they fell silent as Panathinaikos scored a spectacular equaliser. Markus Münch powered through midfield before laying the ball back for Zutautas who drilled a left-footed shot low past Stefan Klos in the Rangers goal.
The game was delicately poised at this stage and Rangers faced the dilemma of defending a point or going all out for a win in the second half. Having conceded goals in all their Champions League fixtures, attack seemed to be the best option and from the kick-off they surged towards the Panathinaikos goal. Within a minute René Henriksen was forced to head clear from a dangerous Peter Lovenkrands cross with Fernando Ricksen lurking just behind him.
Sensing a nervousness among the home players and fans, Panathinaikos pushed forward and almost took the lead in the 52nd minute. Substitute Joël Epallé found space on the right and his low cross caused chaos in the Rangers defence. Klos saved the first effort from Konstantinou but the ball broke back to Miltiadis Sapanis and his shot was blocked on the goalline.
The Greek side were growing in confidence and Konstantinou was only denied by the post in the 58th minute when his shot from the edge of the box beat Klos. Four minutes later Basinas fired Panathanaikos ahead with an astonishing swirling drive from 30 metres.
As Rangers poured forward, Panathinaikos exploited the gaps at the back and scored a third goal in the 80th minute. Konstantinou had the composure to round Klos before slotting the ball into the unguarded net to send the travelling supporters wild and the Athenians into the UEFA Cup.
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