On a nervous night at Ibrox, Walter Smith's men taste victory against the Turkish ChampionsIt was a long time coming but, Rangers finally got they Champions League victory they longed for against Bursaspor
Both managers decided to take a frugal and cautious approach as Rangers lined up in a 5-3-1-1 formation which so successfully negated Manchester United, whilst the Turkish side opted for 4-5-1.
The first real threat of the night came courtesy of the Bursaspor winger Sercan Yildirim who’s searching run down the left forced a clearance from David Weir.
Maurice Edu’s early attempt on goal required the intervention of Stepanov to deflect it’s trajectory over the goal of Dimitar Ivankov.
Another good passage of Rangers play resulted in a free kick which Steven Davies drilled in from the left and onto which, the Algerian Madjid Bougherra hammered his shot which was deflected over. From the resulting corner, once more from Davies, Ivankov spilled the ball which found it’s way to the foot of Edu who couldn’t capitalise on the chance.
Rangers record in Europe was far from stellar as they had gone 12 games without a win but with the promising result at Old Trafford hopes were high for a win. However, the expectations to perform were evident.
Ibrox nerves were settled shortly after when after 17 minutes, a cross from deep on the right flank was deftly and delicately headed by Kirk Broadfoot into the path of the rampaging Steven Naismith who slid the ball low to the right of Ivankov for a one nil lead for Rangers. A point of note, Naismith’s goal is the first by a Scot since Blackpool’s Charlie Adam scored against Stuttgart 3 years ago.
The Scottish champions could have increased the lead only three minutes later when a Lee McCulloch header drifted wide left of the Bursaspor net.
Bursaspor spent much of the first half chasing Rangers who dictated the tempo and direction of the game, but when chances came their way, they required serious attention. One such incident was a free kick 25 yards from Allan McGregor’s goal which was sweetly struck by the Brazilian Wederson - who’s run up is reminiscent to that of dead ball sniper Roberto Carlos – which shot through the flimsy wall and dipped sharply in front of McGregor who palmed the ball over and to safety.
Ertugrul Saglam made a change shortly before halftime taking off Ivan Ergic and replacing him with Frederico Insua. Insua made a quick impression when he headed a Yildirim cross goal bound but McGregor dealt with it easily.
Rangers continued the onslaught after the break as the American Edu probed the Bursaspor defence with a through ball which was just out of reach of Kenny Miller who stretched and as a result failed to get any real purchase on the ball. Moments later Edu again setup Naismith with a gentle pass across the outside of the box which he fluffed.
The dominance continued as Edu found himself with time and space on the edge of the box but his shot was wide right.
Volkan Sen, the young Turkish winger was the most promising of players on the night for Bursaspor and his mazy dribbles and passes from the right channel caused constant concern for Rangers and if a breakthrough was to come it would surely figure the youngster.
As the second half drew on, Saglam rolled the dice with a double substitution bringing off the midfielder Pablo Martin Batalla and striker Yildirim to replace them with Leonel Jorge Nunez and Turgay Bahadir in an attempt to snatch an equalising goal.
Serb defender Stepanov saw a chance to level the game fly over the Rangers bar after more fine work from Sen on the right.
In a stalling move, Walter Smith brought off Kenny Miller and sent on Kyle Lafferty to halt the attacking momentum of Bursaspor.
The Turkish side continued to hurl men forward to try to gain the vital breakthrough. And that breakthrough could have come with a free kick in prime position but Bahadir couldn’t make the most of it.
On reflection, a second goal would have killed off Bursaspor but the enthralling final 15 minutes of the game would not have been so enthralling had they done just that.