VfB Stuttgart 1-1 Rangers FC
A moment of inspiration from Madjid Bougherra earned Rangers reward for an improved second-half showing to disappoint VfB.
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A moment of inspiration from Algeria defender Madjid Bougherra left VfB Stuttgart disappointed as Rangers FC fought back to earn a share of the UEFA Champions League spoils.
The hosts dominated the first half, deservedly took the lead through former FC Zenit St. Petersburg striker Pavel Pogrebnyak and looked to be cruising as the teams went in at the break. But a positive response from Rangers changed the complexion of the Group G opener, and after two warnings Bougherra restored parity 13 minutes from time when he advanced, played a clever one-two with Jérôme Rothen and slammed the ball past Jens Lehmann. A disappointing night almost became much worse for Stuttgart in stoppage time when Steven Davis's low drive clipped the outside of the post.
That would have been harsh on Stuttgart, who had showed more purpose from the off and nearly stunned the noisy travelling Rangers support within two minutes. Cacau arrived unmarked in the box to apply a left-foot strike to a Roberto Hilbert cross that was well saved by Allan McGregor. Thomas Hitzlsperger was unable to keep his acrobatic effort down from the rebound. It was a sign of things to come for Scotland's champions as they struggled to get out of their own half, Markus Babbel's team's slick passing leaving them chasing shadows.
The Bundesliga side's early dominance paid dividends on 18 minutes when the industrious Cacau blocked Saša Papac's attempted clearance before powering into the box and unselfishly laying the ball across to Pogrebnyak who made no mistake. The Russian international finished low past the helpless McGregor from ten metres. Stuttgart continued to pile on the pressure, and even when Rangers finally began to produce some attacking impetus towards the end of the first period, they struggled with their final ball.
Walter Smith's men started the second half with much more hunger and drive, almost snatching an equaliser within two minutes of the restart. Rothen found enough space on the right to deliver a dangerous cross which Papac, getting the wrong side of Christian Träsch after surging forward from left-back, got to first but his diving header flew well wide of Lehmann's left-hand post. It was a stark warning for the German outfit but they did little to heed it, failing to turn their midfield supremacy into meaningful goalscoring opportunities.
Rangers threatened again when new signing Rothen struck the upright with a miscued right-wing cross just after the hour; Stuttgart would not earn a third reprieve, from Bougherra. Rangers continued to press and twice went close late on. Steven Naismith dispossessed Arthur Boka in his own area only for Lehmann to smother the ball before he could release his shot. Davis then shaved a post with a driven left-foot strike, yet Stuttgart held on for the point and now turn their attentions to Romania's FC Unirea Urziceni in two weeks' time, when Rangers face a stiff test at home to Sevilla FC.