RANGERS got the much-needed boost they needed as they secured their place in the Group Stage of the UEFA Cup with a relatively comfortable win over the Norwegians of Molde.
There was considerable pressure on Paul Le Guen and his team after consecutive away defeats in the SPL and a rather insipid first leg performance in Norway.
However, they got the job done with two very good goals scored by Thomas Buffel and skipper Barry Ferguson, who is undoubtedly getting back to the form everyone knows he is capable of.
was not totally convincing as Allan McGregor was forced to make a few smart saves, but the main thing was to qualify and Rangers succeeded in that quest.
The key for Rangers was to get off to a good start and that’s exactly what they did with a goal inside 12 minutes.
It was a slick move which caught out the Norwegians and the Ibrox crowd roared their approval.
Skipper Barry Ferguson played the ball wide to Stevie Smith and his low cross from the left was expertly converted by Thomas Buffel at the near post.
It was everything Rangers deserved after a very sprightly start. Buffel was in the team to support Kris Boyd and the move paid off immediately.
Indeed, it was the quick thinking of Buffel that almost gave Rangers the lead earlier.
He slipped a great pass through to Boyd in four minutes but the young striker was ruled offside as he slotted the ball into the net.
Dado Prso had been given a deeper role and everything seemed to be falling into place in the early stages as Rangers took the game to the Norwegians.
Buffel again showed his initiative in 21 minutes when he ran forward to take a pass from Libor Sionko but his shot was well saved by Jan Larsen.
A minute later Phil Bardsley, recalled to play right back, picked out Boyd in the box but he shot just past the post.
Rangers, however, seemed to lose their impetus and Molde almost got back in it with a simple move.
Knut Rindaroy crossed from the left in 29 minutes and Marel Baldvinsson was unmarked as he headed past the post. He should have done better and there is little doubt Rangers were let off the hook.
Rangers were almost caught out again from a similar move on the other side in 38 minutes.
Slovenian right back Matej Mavric crossed from the right and again Baldvinsson was in the clear but he missed the target.
Le Guen demanded more and Rangers finished the half in much better form.
Boyd was not far away with a header in 40 minutes, connecting with Smith’s cross from the left.
Then Sionko had the ball in the net two minutes later when he latched onto Buffel’s pass but was ruled offside.
Le Guen knew that a second goal would make life a lot more comfortable and he got his wish a minute before half-time.
It was a super move and it cut the Molde defence wide open.
Sionko brought the ball inside from the right and slipped a good pass for Boyd. Cleverly Boyd back-heeled the ball into the path of Ferguson who burst forward and placed a right foot shot into the left corner for his first goal of the season.
Having gained such an advantage the last thing Rangers wanted to do was cause themselves problems in the early moments of the second half but that’s exactly what they did.
Within a minute of the restart Alan McGregor, the hero of the first leg, had to make an excellent blocking save from Magne Hoseth who got away from Brahim Hemdani.
Then in 52 minutes McGregor was the saviour again as he blocked a shot from Baldvinsson.
It was a clear warning that Rangers had some work to do and Prso almost got things going again in 58 minutes.
Smith swept over a free kick from the left and Prso met it with his head but Jan Larsen saved well diving to his right.
Le Guen made a switch, bringing on Gavin Rae to play in midfield with Boyd coming off, and gradually there was more control and purpose to Rangers’ play.
Prso almost scored twice in the space of a minute as the Ibrox men turned up the heat in the final 20 minutes.
He shot just wide in 72 minutes after good work from Ferguson and Buffel. Then a minute later he forced Larsen to push the ball wide for a corner after Ferguson released Adam with a great pass and the youngster played the Croat in.
Sensibly, Le Guen removed him from the fray and introduced Filip Sebo to make sure the Molde defence were worked in the final moments.
The ploy worked as Rangers finished the tie strongly and ensured their safe passage.
There are, however, undoubtedly much more difficult tasks lying in wait for Le Guen’s side.