Gers Kick Off With Win


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Jan 1, 2004
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The Penny Arcade

Rangers 2-1 Blackburn Rovers

RANGERS kicked off their Sydney Festival of Football campaign with a solid performance as they beat Blackburn Rovers 2-1.

First-half goals from Maurice Edu and Kenny Miller had the 53-times Scottish champions on easy street.

But David Dunn's penalty set up a tense finish in a match Gers were in control of for much of the afternoon.

Walter Smith had promised to field his strongest possible XI and didn't disappoint, with Madjid Bougherra and Edu both coming into the side.

Bougherra was deployed at right-back in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Steven Davis in the middle and Miller playing as the sole striker.

Rovers went into this game just 33 hours after they had arrived in Australia and it was clear in the opening stages they were still feeling the effects of their long journey.

Indeed, the Light Blues were thoroughly dominant initially and could easily have been 3-0 up before they finally took the lead.

David Weir was first to try his luck with a header but it flew just over from a Davis corner then Miller flicked a header towards goal but saw it saved by Paul Robinson.

Kyle Lafferty then had a go but his drive was stopped by the keeper after a neat flick by Steven Naismith.

A goal was clearly coming and it took just 10 minutes to arrive, with Edu being the man who scored it.

He leapt highest to connect with a Davis free kick after a late foul on Miller and the American got past two men to nod into the net at the back post.

Not content to sit on their lead, Gers pushed immediately for a second and Davis curled just beyond the far post with his right foot.

Lafferty also crossed low to Edu and he dummied for Miller to make contact but the striker fired just over.

Finally Blackburn lifted themselves from their slumber and Steven N'Zonzi steered a header towards Allan McGregor but it was tame and easily stopped.

Dunn tested the Ibrox number one a little more with a long-range grasscutter but again there was no way past.

Although the English side were improving, Rangers came back at them again and finished the first half in much the same way as they had started it.

Lafferty had another pop and was much closer after good build-up play from Lee McCulloch and Kirk Broadfoot.

While he couldn't net, he was at least able to provide the ball for Miller that allowed him to make it 2-0.

Naismith broke down the right and fed the Northern Ireland international, who showed common sense and played inside rather than opted to shoot himself.

The decision paid off handsomely as Miller was there to send a rocket high into the net from eight yards and give the SPL champions a commanding midway point lead.

It wasn't too surprising to see the Ewood Park outfit lift their game after the interval and a likely half-time rocket from boss Sam Allardyce.

David Hoilett's drive had to be dealt with smartly by McGregor then Andy Webster had to hook N'Zonzi's header out from under his own crossbar.

The Lancashire team was playing with far more urgency now and El Hadji Diouf and Jason Roberts could both have scored but McGregor spread himself well to deny them.

Somewhat against the run of play, the Light Blues had a chance to finish the game off when they were awarded a penalty after a great run into the box by Edu.

Great interplay between Lafferty and Naismith set up the ex-Toronto man and when he was felled by Grant Hanley, Miller grabbed the ball and shot from 12 yards.

But he opted to go for power rather than placement and the end result was that the ball crashed off the top of the bar before bouncing over.

Still reeling from that miss, Gers were then incensed further when they conceded a soft spot kick of their own which prompted furious protests from Smith's men.

Regardless, Dunn calmly sent McGregor the wrong way to reduce the deficit and make a game of it again.

Lafferty thought he had made it 3-1 with a little under 20 minutes remaining when he diverted substitute Ross Perry's shot into the net.

But there were few complaints from him when he was flagged offside and saw his effort flagged offside.

With time ticking down and scores of replacements coming into the fray, the match lost much of its momentum.

John Fleck nearly added a third though with a fine effort after winning possession but Robinson saved.

The final result means Rangers move on to five points after the first round of fixtures, with two awarded for the goals they scored along with the three given for the win.

AEK Athens lead the way on eight following their 5-3 win over Sydney and now Smith's side will meet the Aussies on matchday two this Wednesday.

RANGERS: McGregor; Bougherra (Perry 65), Webster, Weir, Broadfoot; McCulloch; Naismith, Davis, Edu (Wylde 65), Lafferty; Miller (Fleck 65).

SUBS NOT USED: Shinnie, Whittaker, Adam.

BLACKBURN: Robinson, Salgado (Jacobsen 67), Givet, N'Zonzi (Hanley 60), Chimbonda, Jones, Hoilett, Dunn (Grella 78), Roberts (Ritgers 85), Diouf, Pedersen (Emerton 60).

SUBS NOT USED: Nelsen, Brown, Morris, Linganzi, Bunn.