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An own goal by Juan Manuel Peña salvaged a 2-2 draw for Rangers FC in the first leg of their first knockout round tie against Villarreal CF.
The Primera División debutants looked to be on course for an impressive away win after first-half strikes from Juan Román Riquelme and Diego Forlán had sandwiched Peter Løvenkrands's equaliser, but Peña's miscue eight minutes from time gave Rangers hope for the return match in Spain.
The Scottish club's manager, Alex McLeish, made two changes to the side that beat Hibernian FC last weekend, with Hamed Namouchi coming in on the left of midfield for Thomas Buffel, and Løvenkrands restored to the attack at the expense of Kris Boyd. As expected, Riquelme was back in the visitors' lineup after a two-month lay-off and the Argentina playmaker made an immediate impact following a blunder by Dado Pršo in his own area.
Paying the penalty
There appeared to be no immediate danger when Riquelme swung in a corner from the right on seven minutes, but the Croatia striker - back defending in his own area - inexplicably handled the ball under pressure from Alessio Tacchinardi. Referee Eric Poulat pointed to the penalty spot and Riquelme confidently stepped up to stroke the ball into the roof of the net.
It was the worst possible start for the home team and Rangers were almost two behind eight minutes later. Again Riquelme was the architect, curling in a free-kick from the right which José María Romero turned goalwards to bring out a good save from Ronald Waterreus. In the ensuing scramble, Gonzalo Rodríguez bundled the ball over the line only to see his effort chalked off for offside.
However, somewhat against the run of play, Rangers were back on level terms on 22 minutes when Løvenkrands scored his third goal of this European campaign. Chris Burke looked to have run out of options when he ran into Gonzalo on the edge of the Villarreal box, but the Danish forward was the first to react to the loose ball, sweeping a stunning left-foot shot past Sebastián Viera.
Ten minutes before half-time, Villarreal were ahead again after the Rangers defence failed to deal with another Riquelme set-piece. A long-range free-kick was only cleared as far as the edge of the Rangers area and when the Argentinian headed the ball back into the danger zone, Forlán pounced. The same two combined four minutes before the interval, but Waterreus denied Forlán with a good block.
The visitors seemed content to sit on their lead after the break, but Rangers could only muster a long-range drive from full-back Alan Hutton and a misdirected header from Julien Rodriguez after Viera had misjudged a corner from Løvenkrands. Villarreal should have put the result beyond doubt just after the hour when Riquelme danced past four defenders before putting Forlán through on goal. However, for once the Uruguayan fired straight at Waterreus. It was all Villarreal now and moments later Riquelme opened the home defence once more, sending Javi Venta down the right and his fizzed cross just eluded Forlán at the back post.
McLeish threw on Buffel and Nacho Novo in the last 20 minutes as he sought to rescue a draw and the Belgian midfielder made an instant impression, driving into the box from the left before clipping in a low cross which deflected off Peña and looped into the net to give Rangers a lifeline for the return leg at Villarreal's El Madrigal. However, the Ibrox side will be without Pršo who picked up his third booking of the competition.
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