10:26:14 PMRangers Suffer Uefa Cup Heartache
|Zenit St Petersburg deservedly lifted the Uefa Cup with a two-goal victory over Rangers in Manchester. |
The Russians dominated the first half without seriously threatening a packed Rangers defence.
Rangers' Jean-Claude Darcheville forced a good save and a Barry Ferguson snap shot struck the outside of a post.
But Denisov played a neat one-two with Andrei Arshavin before firing home and Konstatin Zyryanov side-footed in to secure Zenit's first European trophy.
It meant Rangers' dream of repeating their 1972 Cup-Winners' Cup success died at the hands of Zenit coach Dick Advocaat - the man dubbed the Little General during his time in charge at Ibrox.
And the Scottish side's hopes of winning four trophies by the end of the season had faltered at the second hurdle.
Rangers had been accused of playing "anti-football" during a miserly run to the final built on a solid defensive foundation.
And manager Walter Smith was not about to disappoint his critics - playing two holding midfielders instead of his usual one.
But there was no negativity among the hordes of Rangers fans who had the City of Manchester Stadium shaking with their now traditional "bouncy, bouncy" antics.
The Zenit fans added to the sea of blue and white and it was their favourites who launched a wave of attacks from the outset.
Arshavin, back in the side after being banned for the semi-final, fired into the side-netting after just four minutes after Brahim Hemdani was caught in possession.
Rangers' Algerian midfielder constantly put his side in trouble by dwelling on the ball.
But he was not the only culprit as Zenit showed their own determination to close down their opponents as they stuck to their Rangers opponents like limpets.
For their part, the Glasgow outfit were limiting Zenit to long range efforts and an Anatoly Tymoschuk drive and an Alexander Anyukov half-volley were easily dealt with by goalkeeper Neil Alexander.
Andrei Arshavin holds off Brahim Hemdani
Rangers were relying on the break and, when Darcheville stole into the box, only an excellent interception by Radek Sirl denied Ferguson an opportunity from close range.
Steven Whittaker squandered Rangers only other chance of the first half, heading well over after being found unmarked at the back post by a Steven Davis cross.
There were some appeals for a penalty when a cross struck Kirk Broadfoot in the Rangers box, but the half-time whistle blew without either side making a breakthrough.
Zenit goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev pulled off a fine save with his feet to block a low Darcheville drive as Rangers showed more adventure at the start of the second half.
And, during the goalmouth melee that followed, there were claims for a penalty and Ferguson toe-poked the ball against a post.
Whittaker and Davis had low drives cleared from in front of goal, but Zenit broke clear and Arschavin beat Alexander only to have his chip towards goal headed off the line by Sasa Papac.
The loss of suspended striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, the leading scorer in the competition, appeared to be hampering Zenit.
But the breakthrough was supplied when Denisov at last broke through the centre of the Rangers defence after 72 minutes.
Konstantin Zyrianov struck the outside of the post moments later.
But, after substitute Nacho Novo blasted over for a Rangers side throwing everything into attack, Zyryanov fired home in stoppage time after a Fatih Tekke cutback.
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