Gers claim top spot
By Simon Fudge. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Rangers claimed top spot in Uefa Cup Group A after a slim 1-0 home victory over Partizan Belgrade.
Alan Hutton's second-half header proved the difference between both sides, though already eliminated Partizan were unlucky not to take something from their trip to Glasgow in the dying stages.
Gers boss Paul Le Guen left captain Barry Ferguson and striker Dado Prso out of his side, with Sunday's Old Firm derby with Celtic to come after Thursday's contest.
Instead, the former Lyon manager handed summer signing Makhtar N'Diaye his first start for the club.
The heavy rains that hit Glasgow looked to have had an impact on the Ibrox pitch, as the bumpy surface made flowing football a challenge for both sides.
Rangers may have had calls for an early penalty when Bojan Zajic looked to have brought down Thomas Buffel in the Partizan box, but Dutch referee Ruud Bossen saw no reason to give a spot-kick.
The Serbian visitors then created a superb chance to break the deadlock, but an unmarked Nenad Mirosavljevic inexplicably got his header all wrong after Nebojsa Marinkovic did well to pick him out with his cross.
It was the only real opportunity created in the half by Partizan, as The Gers had the better chances before the break, with makeshift captain Gavin Rae hitting the post after playing a neat one-two with Nacho Novo on the edge of Partizan's box.
Partizan's Cypriot goalkeeper Nikolas Asprogenis was then called on to keep the scores level, as he did well to stop Filip Sebo's initial volley before blocking the Slovakian's rebound strike.
It proved a relatively uneventful half of football, with Buffel failing to hit the target with a curling free-kick just before the half-time whistle.
The second half saw Le Guen's side make more inroads in attack, and it took only ten minutes for the Glasgow outfit to open the scoring.
Novo's free-kick from the right found Hutton in the Partizan box and his diving header sailed past a statuesque Asprogenis and into the top corner for 1-0.
The goal settled Rangers, and both Sebo and Buffel brought further saves from Asprogenis, as they looked to see out the match.
To their credit, Partizan showed their pride and should have drawn level in the late stages, but substitute Ljubisa Vukelia somehow missed the target from close range after Mirosavljevic found him in front of Allan McGregor's goal.
McGregor then needed to make a fine save to Vukelia's far-post volley before Karl Svensson cleared the danger to earn a clean sheet in the end.
Rangers will now look forward to Friday's round of 32 draw after claiming the summit in Group A.