Anorthosis Famagusta 95
EUROPEAN nights at Ibrox are always special occasions no matter the opposition. Rangers fans have witnessed some of the continent’s biggest clubs – including Borussia Dortmund, PSV and Parma – all lose to their heroes on the hallowed turf. However, a little known team from Cyprus almost came close to causing an upset in August 1995.
Rangers had just won their seventh consecutive league title the previous season and were looking to kick-off the new campaign with a win in the Champions League qualifier against Anorthosis Famagusta.
The Light Blues were in confident mood after being crowned champions and were tipped to brush aside the Cypriots over the two legs. Even Anorthosis manager, George Vassilev, predicted that his side would only have a 100-1 chance of victory.
Rangers had come close to reaching the European Cup final during season 1992/1993, only to be cruelly knocked out of the competition by Marseille. Gers fans were eager for the team to recapture the form of that magical European run, starting with a convincing win against Anorthosis. However, chairman David Murray and manager Walter Smith warned the confident Ibrox legions not to expect an easy game.
The home side – playing in their new red and white away strip – started the game well and came close just two minutes in. Paul Gascoigne struck a well executed free-kick which looked goal-bound until Nicos Panayiotou produced a spectacular acrobatic save. However, Rangers failed to heap pressure onto the keeper and the few chances that the home side had were easily dealt with.
Clearly frustrated with Rangers’ toothless display in front of goal, the Ibrox crowd vented their frustration on Anorthosis defender, Solos Andreou. After an innocuous clash with Brian Laudrup, Andreou collapsed to the ground and was carried off looking as if he had been shot by the Dane. However, to the disgust of the home support he made a sprightly return to the field of play less than a minute after the incident.
This reaction from the crowd seemed to spur on the Cypriots and in 24 minutes, Demetris Assiotis freed Sinisa Gogic in the Rangers half. Despite the efforts of Brian Reid, Gogic shrugged off the big defender but could only manage to balloon his strike well over the bar.
Rangers rallied and came close to taking the lead. Mark Hateley tested Panaviotou with three decent headers and Alan McLaren also had a chance with his head, with ex-Aberdeen right-back Stephen Wright almost scoring the opener with a ferocious low drive.
However, after failing to take their chances the home side could have conceded two goals had it not been for the expertise of Gers legend Andy Goram. In 38 minutes, Nikolai Todorov homed in on the Rangers’ goal before unleashing a fierce strike towards the far corner of the net which The Goalie managed to touch round the post. Goram then palmed away a powerful free-kick from Ignatov, keeping the game tied at 0-0 going into the half-time break.
Knowing that his team needed to score in the second half, Smith abandoned his three man central defensive system in favour of bringing on Gordon Durie to bolster the Rangers attack.
This strategy produced gaps in the Gers defence and the visitors could have broken the deadlock in 57 minutes after they mounted a counter attack, but luckily for the Light Blues, Gogic pulled his shot across the face of goal, just shading the post.
This served as a wake-up call for Rangers who then began a sustained assault on the away goal. Ian Ferguson dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box and Stuart McCall sent his delicate chip just inches wide. Charlie Miller then came on for Ferguson and began to stamp his authority on the game.
Looking like they could score, Rangers began putting more and more pressure on the away goal, spurred on by the enthusiastic support as the atmosphere in the stadium became increasingly intense. Then in 68 minutes, Gascoigne played the ball to McCall who cut it back to Durie. The substitute briefly lost control but recovered quickly and rifled his shot between the goalkeeper’s legs and into the back of the net, causing Ibrox to erupt at the sight of what was to be the winning goal.
Rangers now had to travel to Cyprus for the second leg, needing just a draw to progress. After enduring the hostile atmosphere for 90 minutes, the tie ended 0-0 with Miller coming closest to scoring for the Gers, which was enough to send them through to the group stages of the Champions League.
Having secured Rangers’ place in Europe’s most prestigious competition, Durie insisted that it was Andy Goram who saved the day for the club.
Jukebox said: “I might have been coming on with us 2-0 down if it wasn’t for Andy. I maybe got the headlines with the goal, but Andy kept us in the game a couple of times with tremendous saves. Certainly his saves were just as important as my goal.”
Reliving that crucial moment, the Rangers super-sub said: “I possibly thought I’d lost the chance for a split second. My first touch was all right but the second one got away from me so the only thing on my mind was to get there first and hit the target. So I was relieved to see it hit the back of the net.”
RANGERS: Goram, Wright, Robertson, Gough, McLaren, Reid, McCall, Gascoigne, Ferguson, Hateley, Laudrup
Subs: Thomson, Miller, Durrant, Durie, McCoist
ANORTHOSIS: N. Panayiotou, P. Panaviotou, Andreou, Castanas, Panayi, Kiriakov, Assiotis, Stavrou, Gogic, Todorov, Ignatov
Subs: Charalambous, A. Melanarkitis, V. Melanarkitis, Chrisioforoiu, Shimitras
The pictures used within this article are from the away leg in Cyrus.
Rangers 1-0 Anorthosis Famagusta
August 9, 1995