Gers held in Slovakia
By Simon Fudge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Rangers twice squandered the lead to draw 2-2 with Artmedia Bratislava.Rangers twice squandered the lead in a disappointing 2-2 draw with Artmedia Bratislava in Slovakia.
First half goals from Dado Prso and Steven Thompson were not enough to give the Glasgow club victory, as two defensive errors allowed Balazs Borbely and Jan Kozak to find the scoresheet for the home side.
The result is sure to keep the pressure on Gers boss Alex McLeish, as the club's UEFA Champions League campaign remains in the balance.
The visitors had Julien Rodriguez and Sotirios Kyrgiakos back for their second clash with the Slovakian champions, with the defensive pair replacing Bob Malcolm and Marvin Andrews in the line-up.
Thompson, meanwhile, replaced Chris Burke to partner Prso in the Rangers attack.
Artmedia boss Vladimir Weiss was without defender Ales Hellebrand for Tuesday's match, but striker Branislav Obzera returned from injury to start against the Scottish champions, with fellow striker Juraj Halenar having to settle for a place on the substitutes' bench.
A lively Tehelne Pole Stadium crowd were treated to an entertaining opening half of play, with each side finding the scoresheet in the first eight minutes.
It was The Gers that drew first blood three minutes in when Kyrgiakos out-jumped everyone to meet Brahim Hemdani's free kick at the far post.
The Greek defender's header across the face of Artmedia's goal found Prso on the goal line and the Croatian goal poacher easily nodded home after getting a step on his marker Blazej Vascak.
Yet, after doing so well to take the lead, the Old Firm club conspired to hand Artmedia an equaliser five minutes later, as the visitors failed woefully to clear Branislav Fodrek's low corner from the right.
In the ensuing melee, Jan Durica's turn and shot found Borbely unmarked in front of the Rangers goal and the Artmedia captain finished his side-foot volley with aplomb to make it 1-1.
The goal gave the Slovaks confidence to attack, with Rangers goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus making an assured save from Ales Urbanek's deflected strike.
Thompson soon replied at the other end with a dangerous-looking turn and shot that curled just wide of goal after Hemdani picked the striker out with his ball forward.
Fernando Ricksen then caused Artmedia problems with a free kick moments later, but neither Rodriguez nor Prso could get a final touch to his set-piece.
A more even spell of play saw Artmedia create a half chance for Lukas Hartig, but he was unable to direct Kozak's cross goalward after being well marked by Rangers defender Alan Hutton, while Fodrek forced a save from Waterreus with a fierce strike moments later.
Ricksen then tested Artmedia goalkeeper Juraj Cobej with a stinging half-volleyed effort before Vascak was unlucky not to get on the end of a decent ball forward in front of Rangers' goal.
With the match heading towards half time, Rangers restored their lead as Ricksen's short corner found Prso and his fine cross picked out the unmarked Thompson at the far post to powerfully head home past Cobej.
Artmedia, however, reminded their guests they have enough skill to pull level, with Peter Petras screaming a fierce strike just wide of goal, as The Gers took a 2-1 lead in to the break.
The home side should have equalised early in the second half after great work from Hartig saw him outmuscle Rodriguez to the ball in the Rangers box.
The striker picked out Frodrek in front of goal but his left-foot strike sailed over the bar.
Moments later, Olivier Bernard had to clear Obzera's fine strike off the goal line after his shot beat the diving Waterreus.
Artmedia's persistence, however, was rewarded just before the hour mark and again, it was Rangers that gifted their hosts the chance to equalise.
Waterreus's attempt to clear the ball out of his box saw him slice his effort into the path of Kozak.
With Rangers players scrambling back in vain to cover the empty goal, Kozak struck an assured volley home to restore parity for a second time.
Artmedia looked the better side in the second period and Kozak was looking for a second goal, but his far post header from Urbanek's neat cross found the arms of Waterreus.
Rangers were not as imposing going forward after the restart but they created a golden chance to take the lead for a third time in the dying stages.
Bernard's high cross from the left saw Cobej watch on his goal line, as the ball skimmed off the crossbar to Ricksen.
The Dutchman then lobbed a cross back in and found an unmarked Peter Lovenkrands, but the Dane made a mess of his free header and nodded the ball wide.
It proved a costly miss for The Gers, as a win in the Slovakian capital would have taken the Scottish club into sole possession of second place in Group H.
Instead, both clubs remain level on points with five each and still well positioned to qualify for the knockout stages with two matches remaining.
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|Artmedia Bratislava||Team Statistics||Rangers|
|1||1st Half Goals||2|
|6||Shots on Target||3|
|4||Shots off Target||8|