Reaching the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League with Rangers FC was "like winning the league all over again" for Danish goalscorer Peter Løvenkrands.
"Magnificent" was how Peter Løvenkrands described the moment he knew his first-half strike against FC Internazionale Milano was enough to take Rangers FC through to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.
The Danish winger and his team-mates faced an anxious few minutes at the end of their match at Ibrox as they awaited confirmation from Slovakia that the other game in Group H between FC Artmedia and FC Porto had finished goalless, but when the news arrived it reminded Løvenkrands of the dramatic finale to last season when Rangers edged out Celtic FC to take the Scottish Premier League title on the final day. "When we heard it was 0-0 over there it was like winning the league all over again," a delighted Løvenkrands told uefa.com. "It's an unbelievable feeling, magnificent."
'Lovely little ball'
Rangers manager Alex McLeish was rewarded for his decision to play Løvenkrands in a lone striking role. Belgian playmaker Thomas Buffel played just behind him and the pair combined perfectly eight minutes before the interval to cancel out Adriano's headed opener for the Nerazzurri. "We'd been working on that move in training to see if we could unleash me in behind the defence," Løvenkrands said. "Then Thomas played a lovely little ball through and suddenly I had so much time, but I just concentrated hard and it worked out perfectly for me."
Rangers can now look forward to next week's draw for the knockout stages, the first time that a Scottish team has been represented in the last 16, but it remains to be seen whether McLeish will still be in charge when the competition resumes next February. Although last night's draw was an historic night for the club, and Scottish football, it extended Rangers' winless run to ten matches in all competitions, a new club record which has placed a huge question mark against the manager's position.
McLeish admitted his future will be decided over the next 48 hours, but his players feel he has earned the right to lead Rangers into the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League. "I think he deserves to be there because he's taken us into the next phase," defender Ian Murray told uefa.com. "He can hold his head up high like the rest of the players and hopefully he will now get the chance to take us to the knockout stages."
As for their next challenge both players are aiming high. "I support Arsenal [FC] down south so it would be fantastic to get them but whoever we get will be difficult," said Murray. Løvenkrands wants Primera División high-flyers FC Barcelona. "It might be impossible to beat them but just to try and take them on home and away would be fantastic," he said.