An inspired performance by Juraj Čobej gave FC Artmedia a precious away point as the Slovakian champions held Rangers FC in a goalless encounter at Ibrox.
The 34-year-old goalkeeper, who saved two penalties in the shootout against FK Partizan to book Artmedia's first appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage, produced a string of superb stops to deny Rangers their second win in Group H. The result leaves the sides level on four points, two behind leaders FC Internazionale Milano, who were surprisingly beaten by FC Porto to throw the group wide open.
As predicted, Argentinian youngster Federico Nieto was given his first start for Rangers, partnering Dado Pršo in attack, while former Olympique de Marseille captain Brahim Hemdani made his home debut in central midfield. Perhaps mindful of his hat-trick against Celtic FC in the second qualifying round, Artmedia coach Vladimír Weiss restored Juraj Halenár to his lineup, deployed just behind lone striker Lukáš Hartig.
But it was hosts who threatened early on, Peter Løvenkrands bursting from the halfway line on 12 minutes before picking out the run of Pršo. The Croatian's first touch was disappointing but he did manage a shot, only for Čobej to stick up a hand and divert the ball to safety. Nieto should have opened the scoring three minutes later after Ján Ďurica needlessly surrendered possession on the edge of his area. Pršo collected the loose ball before teeing up the Argentinian on the angle of the six-metre box, but the 22-year-old fired straight at the advancing keeper.
Opportunities for Artmedia were few and far between in this early period but they did claw their way into the game, and Blažej Vaščák's arcing cross only just evaded the head of the unmarked Branislav Fodrek on the half-hour. The chance was merely fleeting, however, and Rangers quickly regained the initiative, with Pršo causing havoc by running at the defence. He almost teed up the opener minutes later when his centre was deflected into the path of Hamed Namouchi, but Čobej was again on hand to palm the ball away.
Immediately play swung to the other end, with Hartig latching on to a long ball before dragging his effort wide. Nieto was replaced by Steven Thompson following a clash of heads with Ondrej Debnár but Rangers did not lose their rhythm, and only another save from Čobej denied Sotirios Kyrgiakos a headed goal six minutes before half-time. Rangers resumed their offensive after the break, with Debnár's last-ditch tackle preventing Thompson converting Pršo's low cross. Čobej came to Artmedia's rescue from the resulting corner, getting two hands to Olivier Bernard's powerful strike from outside the area.
Rangers boss Alex McLeish was forced to reshuffle his back line after Kyrgiakos pulled up with a knee injury, but before Marvin Andrews could replace him, Ronald Waterreus was called into action, rushing off his line to smother Hartig's attempt.
The change seemed to disrupt the hosts but although Artmedia enjoyed some prolonged possession, the classy Čobej was needed again on 67 minutes as Barry Ferguson's deep centre threatened to drift past everyone into the net. He then watched a late Pršo shot whistle past the post late on but Artmedia held on for a battling draw.