Thursday, May 15, 2008

Coming up short

And so the impregnable quadrilateral of Scottish and European football has eluded Rangers.

We shouldn't be surprised, Rangers got to the final despite their limitations. The defensive game (which - love it, loathe it - worked) was borne from the failings of the squad.

Finally the luck ran out.

Zenit were just better. Quicker, cleverer, more expensively assembled. The longer the game stayed at nil nil the more chance Rangers had. But the first goal, late as it was, killed them. Sure, there was penalty claim: yes, we've seen them given but, crucially, the ref had already turned down a similar one for Zenit. Novo had a chance which he should probably have left to McCulloch. And that was about it.

Rangers feat was getting this far. That surprised everyone including their manager. The final was a step too many. Now domestic battles lie ahead. Walter Smith and co will really earn their corn as they strain to lift this group of players for the games that remain.

It was an incredible run. It wasn't pretty. The excitement only flickered briefly. But they got there. Like Celtic in 2003 that was to be the true measure of their achievement.

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