Kyrgiakos wins it for Gers
By Simon Fudge. Last Updated: 13/09/05 9:51pm
Rangers opened their UEFA Champions League account with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Porto.
The Old Firm side twice took the lead though Peter Lovenkrands and Dado Prso, but Kleper Pepe twice drew the Portuguese giants level in the second half.
That set the stage for Greek defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos to head a dramatic winner in the late stages for an important opening win in Group H.
Gers boss Alex McLeish was keen to see an improved performance from his side after their disappointing 1-1 draw at Scottish Premier League new boys Falkirk on Saturday.
The former Hibernian manager made changes and introduced recent addition Olivier Bernard at left back, while on-loan Charlton Athletic striker Francis Jeffers was handed his first start in a Rangers shirt and Lovenkrands received a start as well.
That meant Jose-Karl Pierre Fanfan, Thomas Buffel and Nacho Novo all had to settle for places on the bench.
It was the 2004 European Cup winners that dominated the early proceedings, with the Scottish champions looking nervous from the kick-off.
Co Adriaanse's side looked dangerous in attack but suspect at the back and after a Lovenkrands' run down the left, the Dane picked out Jeffers in the Porto box.
However, the former Everton and Arsenal hit-man was unable to get a decent first touch on the ball and Porto's Pedro Emanuel was able to clear.
The visitors then created a decent chance moments later when a fine low Cesar Peixoto cross from the left found Ricardo Costa at the far post but his sliding right foot strike was high and wide.
They went even closer to scoring when Alan took advantage of a Lovenkrands mistake, his shot deflecting off Kyrgiakos and looping over the crossbar and onto Rangers' net.
The lively contest saw action at both ends and Porto goalkeeper Vitor Baia nearly gifted Prso with a chance after a very poor clearance, only for Croatian to fail to control the ball when in a dangerous position.
With ten minutes to play before the break, Rangers took the lead when a long ball forward from Fernando Ricksen saw Hamed Namouchi and Costa both challenge but miss the ball in the air at the top of Porto's box.
The ball dropped for Lovenkrands and the Dane sublimely steered a left foot volley past Baia to send Ibrox into raptures.
Moments later, Prso and Emanuel suffered a nasty clash of heads going for the ball in the air and Emanuel was forced to come off with a bloody nose, as The Gers took a one-goal lead to the break.
Porto came out flying at the start of the second half and quickly restored parity after a superb Peixoto corner from the right was nodded home by Pepe.
Porto should have taken the lead moments later but Tomislav Sokota and Alan got in the way of each other with only Rangers goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus to beat and the Croatian's shot struck the Dutchman's legs and bounced away to safety.
Yet, as Porto looked to get a grip on the contest, Rangers restored their lead in comical circumstances after Ricksen's return header from a free kick into the box saw Namouchi make a speculative overhead kick.
The ball went straight up into the air and as Prso and Baia challenged for the ball on the goal line, it struck both the striker and the keeper before falling into the net.
The their credit, Porto worked their way back into the match and from another Peixoto corner from the right, the ball struck the midriff of Pepe and bounced past Waterreus to restore parity again on 71 minutes.
Porto were ominous at this stage and threatened to take the lead, but efforts from Lucho Gonzalez and Hugo Almeida went just wide of the Rangers goal.
Those misses proved costly, as the home side won the match with five minutes left, when Kyrgiakos deftly headed Barry Ferguson's ball into the box over Baia and off the far post to make it 3-2.
McLeish's side held on in the dying stages to take three valuable points and provide The Gers with a fine start to their Champions League campaign.
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|Rangers||Team Statistics||FC Porto|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||8|
|2||Shots off Target||7|
UEFA Champions League
Tue 13th Sep - Group E
AC Milan3 - 1Fenerbahce
PSV1 - 0Schalke
Tue 13th Sep - Group G
Chelsea1 - 0Anderlecht
Real Betis1 - 2Liverpool
Tue 13th Sep - Group H
Rangers3 - 2FC Porto
Artmedia Bratis0 - 1Inter
Tue 13th Sep - Group F
Olympiakos1 - 3Rosenborg
Lyon3 - 0R Madrid
UEFA Champions League Group A
UEFA Champions League Group B
UEFA Champions League Group C
|1||Paris St Germain||6||13|
UEFA Champions League Group D
|3||FC Viktoria Plzen||6||3|
UEFA Champions League Group E
|4||FC Steaua Bucuresti||6||3|
UEFA Champions League Group F
UEFA Champions League Group G
|2||Zenit St. Petersburg||6||6|
UEFA Champions League Group H