UEFA Champions League debutant Ross McCormack came off the bench to salvage a draw for Rangers FC, cancelling out fellow newcomer Lisandro López's goal for dominant FC Porto in a one-sided Group H encounter that ensures the Scottish champions European football after Christmas.
It took McCormack just seven minutes to make his mark on the European stage after coming on as a 76th-minute substitute to stab in from close range after Chris Burke's knockdown. Until then Porto looked to have hoisted themselves off the foot of the table thanks to Lisandro's header, scored on the hour. The Portuguese team had completely dominated and, in an amazing final flurry, Rangers goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus did incredibly well to deny Paulo Assunção.
Home coach Co Adriaanse sprang something of a surprise by including Lisandro, with Hugo Almeida dropping to the bench. Although the Argentinian striker had scored twice in the weekend win against A. Académica de Coimbra, he was making his first UEFA Champions League appearance. Two other alterations from Matchday 4 saw both Diego and César Peixoto included.
A lengthy injury list, with star forward Dado Pršo the latest addition following a hamstring strain, forced five changes on Rangers manager Alex McLeish. Alex Rae and Marvin Andrews started a group game for the first time while Francis Jeffers, a far less imposing figure than Pršo, was deployed as the lone frontman.
With just three points to their name and starting the night at the bottom of the section, the onus was on Porto to attack and they went hunting the opening goal from the first whistle with Ricardo Quaresma and Diego particularly strong influences. The former, a Portuguese Under-21 international, showed his trickery by immediately slipping the attentions of two defenders before curving a shot at Waterreus.
It set the tone for a one-sided first half with Porto testing Rangers' resilience with cleverly angled balls aimed at the heart of the defence or by launching dangerous crosses from out wide. In the seventh minute Lisandro showed his eagerness to make an impact when he got ahead of Andrews to meet Bosingwa's centre but a twisting header flew over the top.
Diego then worked an opening for himself but Andrews was quickly in to block. The visiting support inside the stadium, so voluble at the start, was reduced to silence as their team desperately tried to hang on - and they could easily have fallen behind before the break had the Porto strikers reacted better to hesitancy in the Rangers rearguard.
Adriaanse took off a defender, Pedro Emanuel, at the break to try and add more venom to the attack with the inclusion of Almeida. The siege continued and the visiting defence had to endure one or two more sticky moments before the breakthrough arrived in the 60th minute. Almeida's height made him the obvious target for the high balls Porto love to drift over from the flanks but when Bosingwa sent one in at pace it was Lisandro who rose to meet it a fraction before Fernando Ricksen and tuck his header inside the left-hand post.
Rangers had to come forward now and McLeish's substitutions reflected their need for goals. Ferguson shot badly off target but then Ricksen's high ball played on the run was met at the far post by Burke, another late replacement, and there was 19-year-old McCormack to guide it over the line.