Fri, Dec 17, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Auxerre puts Rangers out of UEFA Cup

HUMILIATION Scottish greats Rangers went down 2-0 to the French side in Glasgow, ensuring they go nowhere in their quest for any European silverware in this season

AFP , PARIS

Rangers' Nacho Novo, center, gets past Auxerre's Benoit Cheyrou and Jean Pascal Mignot during their UEFA Cup match at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AP

Scottish giants Rangers bowed out of the UEFA Cup in humiliating fashion on Wednesday as they went down 2-0 at home to French side Auxerre with Bonaventure Kalou grabbing a double to ensure the visitors progressed to the last 32.

With Austrian outfit Graz AK beating Group F winners AZ Alkmaar 2-0 in Austria, it saw them advance at the expense of Rangers, who were experiencing their second European disappointment of the season having exited the Champions League before the group stage.

Allemania Aachen though put up the performance of the night as they became the first German side outside of the Bundesliga top tier to go through thanks to a 2-0 win away at pointless AEK Athens, who fielded a second-string side in front of a virtually empty stadium.

AEK's actions in playing a second choice team will not have gone down well with Russian side St Petersburg, who had gone into the final round in third place, a point ahead of Aachen, but were powerless to improve their position as they had already completed their program.

Ivory Coast star Kalou struck in each half to give Auxerre a deserved victory over a lackluster Rangers side and the Scottish side's manager Alex McLeish admitted his players had let down their supporters.

"To give away two goals the way we did is difficult to comprehend," said McLeish.

"It was two early Christmas presents for Auxerre at the start of each half. We blew the chance to qualify for the last 32 and we know collectively that we let the Rangers fans down. It was in our hands but you won't get anywhere by losing the types of goals we did tonight," he said.

His French counterpart Guy Roux was understandably delighted.

"We heard the result from Austria and we knew we would have to win the game," the veteran handler said.

"We did and we deserved to do so because we played very well in front of their 50,000 fans. It is a great result for us and one I did not expect and even if it is not ideal that we are second in the group as we now have to play a team from the Champions League I am happy we are there," he said.

In Austria Roland Kollman delivered the killer blow for Rangers' hopes and made himself a Graz AK hero when he slotted home from the penalty spot in the 54th minute as AZ Alkmaar wilted under the hosts' onslaught.

Rene Aufhauser had given Graz AK the lead when he struck towards the break firing home from inside the area after a terrible clearance by the AZ defense.

Mario Bazina had almost put them ahead in the first minute of the match with a fierce volley that was turned away brilliantly by the AZ 'keeper Henk Timmer.

Timmer had to be alert again a few minutes later to save a goalbound header from Bosnian midfielder Samir Muratovic.

The Allemania Aachen hero was veteran striker Erik Meijer, as the 35-year-old Dutchman -- who numbers Liverpool and Preston among his former clubs -- tapped home in the 56th minute to set them on their way to a famous victory and a place in the knockout stages.

The Germans ensured they progressed when French substitute striker Daniel Gomez ghosted in at the far post and shot into the net from defender Stefan Blank's low cross six minutes from time.

German outfit VfB Stuttgart looked to be in danger of going out in Group G after they were pegged back to 1-1 by Dinamo Zagreb, Ivan Bosnjak cancelling out Christian Tiffert's early goal.

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