DAVID SMITH - Thursday, December 10, 2009
DaMarcus Beasley played the first 45 minutes as Rangers laid to rest their dismal Champions League campaign with yet another sub-par performance, managing only three shots in their loss at Sevilla.
After earning his way back into Walter Smith's selections in recent weeks, Beasley's inclusion into Wednesday's starting lineup was of little surprise, as the game's outcome bore no consequence to the team's already-wasted European aspirations and could place the American into the shop window where he has historically thrived as expectations for a winter transfer mount.
The dominance of the Spanish team was clear from the early minutes, as Mali forward Frederic Kanoute beat Rangers' keeper Allan McGregor in the third minute, and was only denied giving Sevilla an early lead thanks to a goal-line clearance by defender Sasa Papac.
Their luck ran out soon after when Steven Whittaker lost control and tripped up attack-minded defender Fernando Navarro in the box, with Kanoute stepping up to send McGregor the wrong way and giving Sevilla the eighth-minute lead.
The tone for the half was set, with the Scottish champions clearly overwhelmed and looking lost in the headlights of the one-way traffic, unable to attempt so much as a single shot before the halftime whistle.
In contrary, Manolo Jimenez's team were unlucky to go into half with merely a single-goal lead, with series of goal-saving clearances and a questionable non-call in the box on a challenge by Madjid Bougherra on danger-man Kanoute seeing a plethora of Sevilla chances go for naught.
With Smith perhaps choosing not to tempt the fates with the transfer window only weeks away, Beasley made way for forward Kyle Lafferty as part of a double-switch at halftime.
The moves made little difference, as Sevilla continued to take the role of the playground bullies, continually keeping McGregor and the Gers' defenders busy to prevent further damage.
The visitors finally managed their first attempt with eight minutes remaining when Nacho Novo ran onto a through-ball from Steven Davis behind the defense, but could only blast his shot into the side-netting.
Midfielder Lee McCulloch forced Sevilla keeper Andres Palop into his one and only save of the game with a 22-yard volley from the edge of the area in the dying moments, but the veteran keeper had no problems with the shot towards the lower left corner, sending the visitors to yet another embarrassing defeat.
The loss has little bearing on the Light Blues' position in Group G as the dubious distinction of last-place had already been secured on the previous match day. Their run of two ties and four defeats lowers the bar for the worst-ever performance by a Scottish team in the Champions League group stage, a record the reported English Premier League aspirants will surely hope to avoid breaking in coming years.
With the distraction of European competition lifted before the turn of the new year, Smith's squad can work on solving their similarly troublesome play in the league, which has left them in second place behind arch rivals Celtic, and unable to break away from the pack below.