One Night in Paris
The UEFA Cup has produced some memorable moments in the clubs recent history, particularly from the penalty spot. On a cold night in Paris, December, 2001, Dick Advocaat’s Rangers produced an unlikely win via penalties against a star studded PSG to progress to the UEFA cup Fourth Round.
After a frustrating goalless draw in the home leg at Ibrox, Rangers knew a result in the French capital would take some doing but remained confident. Never a fan base to disappoint the team, 10’000 fans descended onto the streets of Paris, assembling around the Eiffel tower before kick-off.
The PSG team sheet from the match makes for some interesting reading. Up top they had the great Ronaldinho in his youthful prime. Mauricio Pochettino, now manager of Spurs, was a very technically gifted defender at the back. Also at the back was Gabriel Heinze – who went on to captain Argentina while playing for Manchester Utd then Real Madrid. On the bench was the Nigerian maverick Jay-Jay Okocha and flamboyant midfielder Bernard Mendy.
Amazingly, Les Rouge-et-Bleu had 2 players who’d go on to wear the famous Rangers jersey – with varying success if must be said. Mikel Arteta looked assured and elegant in midfield which helped earn him a move to Alex McLeish’s team where he won the treble in his first season before moving to the Premiership. The other player was Lionel Letizi – a signing of the failed Le Guen era who made a serious of unconvincing performances, eventually replaced by Allan McGregor between the sticks.
One of the big surprises when the teams were announced was the news that PSG manager Luis Fernandez preferred to start with the Brazilian strike pairing of Alex and Jose Aloisio with Ronaldinho operating just behind instead of the Nicolas Anelka, who had declared himself fit. It was rumoured that Anelka had a rift with his boss in the build up to the game.
Rangers preparation for the match was far from ideal either. A 2-1 defeat in the Old Firm followed by a goalless draw away to Dundee opened up a 12 point gap between Rangers and Martin O’Neils Celtic. There wasn’t just unrest on the park. Defender Michael Ball was hit with a €16,000 club fine following a row with Advocaat on the touchline, after being substituted in the game with Celtic. Midfielder Claudio Reyna was also been lined up by Sunderland much to the dismay of the fans.
Nevertheless, the match in Paris provided the chance to put everything to one side and give the travelling support a night to remember- and they did just that.
Unbelievably, the drama started before the team even touched down in France. The pilot of the chartered plane carrying the Rangers team and match officials, had to abort landing with just seconds to spare because an American airliner was still on the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport as he approached.
Thousands of Rangers fans actually missed the game because of a strike by French air traffic controllers. Dozens of charter and scheduled flights were cancelled by the time the 36-hour stoppage got under way at 6pm on the Wednesday before the game.
Anyway back to the game. Dick Advocaat set his side up to counter attack, using the pace of Lovenkrands and the skill of Flo & De Boer to hit the French side on the break. Despite not scoring, the Little General got his tactics right on this occasion and Rangers could easily have been out of site at the interval. Tore Andre Flo missed two excellent chances and the Norwegian’s poor finishing could have cost us. PSG maintained patient in the build-up and the introduction of Nicolas Anelka after half time put pressure on the Rangers defence but they stood firm. Ronaldinho was a constant threat but didn’t manage to produce the moment of magic the home crowd paid to see.
Similarly to the first leg, the deadlock failed to be broken after 90 minutes and the game entered extra time. Both teams continued to press as the game started to open up. Claudio Cannigia was introduced to run at the PSG defence. He may not have had the speed but he certainly had the experience and skill. It was the Argentinian who created the moment which Rangers were craving. In the 117th minute, Cannigia was fouled by goalkeeper Letizi and awarded a penalty by German referee Hartmut Strampe. Up steps Ronald de Boer – cool, calm and composed – just the man you’d want in this situation, right?
Just as he’d done in the 1998 FIFA World Cup semi-final for Holland against Brazil, the Dutchman blasted the ball miles over the bar and the game was heading for penalties. The Rangers end looked distraught and mentally exhausted with the home support goading and taunting the away corner our fans were situated in. The tie was there to be won and it looked like we’d blown it. It was conclusive to say De Boer wouldn’t be stepping up again.
Lorenzo Amoruso, who’d been outlasting all night, blasted home the opening spot kick after a trademark short run up. Der Goalie Stefan Klos then saved Jay Jay Okocha’s tame right foot strike. Advantage Rangers.
The full squad and backroom staff were locked in arms together. This would be some result. Russell Latapy coolly slotted home and it was 2-0 Gers. Goals from Ronaldinho and Arteta levelled it up with Bert Konterman hitting the bar. (Still have no idea why he was taking one.) It was then the Argentinian’s turn – first Claudio Cannigia then Gabriel Henize– both failing to find the net from 12 yards.
Goals from Arthur Numan and the arrogant Mendy laid the final spot kicks with Barry Ferguson and Mauricho Peccetino. Ferguson, showing maturity well beyond his years calmly side foots the ball into the top corner of the net – the first of many pens for Barry. “Captains Example” says the EuroSport commentator. So up steps Pochhetino to a wall of noise – not from the home crowd but from the 10’000 bears who sense that a great European victory is moments away.
The defender rattles the bar and Rangers are through. “They done it the hard way.” The Rangers bench charge towards the goalkeeper Klos and the Rangers support are ecstatic while Ronaldinho stands dejected on the half way line. Incredible scenes indeed.
Dick Advocaat said after the game: “We were lucky to win the shootout. But I’m happy for myself, for the team and above all for the 10,000 fans who came from Scotland to support us in Paris. When you miss an opportunity just before the end, as we did tonight, your morale is very low but we survived.”
At the end of the game, Ronald de Boer ad Mikel Arteta swapped shirts going off the park not knowing they would be future teammates. Claduio Cannigia – an international icon – consoles the PSG players including the great Brazilian pictured. (Pic) Despite all the friendliness on the pitch, the atmosphere was rather poisonous in the stands.
@CoplandFront, who was at the game, says: “French police were arseholes! Hitting bears with batons as they passed us as we walked to the ground.”
Willie Watson remembers tensions getting heated. “I got searched 3 times by pair of grumpy bastard police. I’m sure they burnt a union Jack in the stadium and atmosphere was bit tasty.”
Martin Gordon also offers an account of his experience of the day. “The day of the game we gathered at the Eiffel Tower with many Bears and the atmosphere was brilliant. At the game I seem to remember to sets of PSG fans chanting to each other from opposite sides of the ground. One guy had a mega phone I remember that. I don’t know what he was shouting but it was loud. Also think there was a PSG fan who burned a Union Flag in the stand. After the pens finished we went mental.”
He’s a taste of what it was like from the home end. Also a great view of the celebrations from the travelling bears.
The run in the competition was short lived with Rangers going out to eventual winners Feyenoord in the next round, but the victory was important in the context of Rangers recent European history. First of all, the win ensured Rangers would be in European action after Christmas for the first time in NINE years – amazing considering the teams who came beforehand. Secondly, and perhaps less important, is that we had never won a shoot-out in Europe before and this was to be the first one.
Extended Highlights of the match can be found HERE.
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