One down but with the ascendancy Darcheville had the chance from inside the six yard box with 11 minutes remaining to turn the game in Rangers’ favour.

Inexplicably he fired Barry Ferguson’s cutback over the bar. Within five minutes Karim Benzema hit the second killer goal for Lyon and then struck another three minutes later to allow Lyon to match the scoreline Rangers had achieved in the Stade Gerland.

That was sickening enough, but Darcheville did himself no favours when was sent off for a rash challenge on Kim Kallstrom.

It’s now UEFA Cup football for Rangers and, when the draw was made that would have been wholly acceptable.

However, there was no hiding the disappointment inside Ibrox.

Trailing to Sidney Govou’s goal in 16 minutes Rangers gave their all in the second half but the Darcheville miss was crucial and in the end the quality of Benzema shone through.

Rangers knew about the attacking threat of Lyon and they were undone after just 16 minutes.

Francois Clerc moved the ball forward to dangerman Karim Benzema on the right side and he had time to whip over a low cross.

Allan McGregor got a hand to it but could only push the ball into the path of Sidney Govou who swept a right a right foot shot into the net.

The irony was that had McGregor missed it completely, Rangers might have escaped as they had men behind him to clear.

There had been a scare seven minutes earlier when Sasa Papac brought down Benzema 30 yards out and earned a yellow card into the bargain.

Inevitably, Lyon captain Juninho took the responsibility and whipped a great dead ball over the wall looking for the bottom right corner but McGregor was a match, pushing the ball wide for a corner.

Rangers tried to come back immediately from the early setback and it was Steven Whittaker who burst forward in 20 minutes and evaded two challenges before unleashing a fierce shot which was spilled by Remy Vercotre.

Papac was quickest to the loose ball and hammered a left foot shot but it was straight at the Lyon keeper and the chance was lost.

There was another blow when Alan Hutton was booked for a foul on Govou in 22 minutes and he now misses the next European match, but that was largely unimportant in the grand scale of the things.

Rangers found it hard to get to grips with the game as Lyon seemed sharper in the midfield area and even when they did get the ball into the last third there was a lack of movement to hurt the French champions.

In many ways the sounding of the half-time whistle was a bonus for the Light Blues who had time to regroup having been largely outplayed in the first half.

Walter Smith decided to make a change bringing on Stevie Naismith for the largely ineffectual Daniel Cousin and Lee McCulloch was moved up to become the main striker.

There was an increased urgency about Rangers in the early moments of the second half and they almost made the breakthrough just four minutes in,

Lyon had been protecting against the threat of Hutton for most of the first half but he finally found some freedom in the 49th minute when he burst down the right side.

Vercoutre fumbled his cross and Sebsastian Squillaci had to head the ball off the line. It broke to Stevie Whittaker but he pulled his left foot shot wide under pressure,

However, Rangers survived another massively dangerous moment in 57 minutes when the French champions won a free kick 25 yards out in a central position.

Carlos Cuellar was booked for bringing down Jeremy Toulalan and, of course, Juninho set himself for the set piece.

McGregor lined up his wall and the Ibrox fans held their breath. The Brazilian stepped forward and whipped the ball over the wall and it smacked off the top of the bar.

It was a let-off because McGregor was not getting to it, but Rangers seemed to feed off the moment and came back again seeking the goal they needed.

Lyon seemed content to try to protect their lead and Rangers began to enjoy infinitely more possession as they fought to get back into the game.

They thought they had their moment in 70 minutes when Kevin Thomson drove the ball in from the left looking for Naismith but Anderson just go a touch to force a corner.

Then in 72 minutes Vercoutre spilled a long range shot from Lee McCulloch but there was no-one able to take advantage.

By this time Walter Smith had sent on Darcheville, knowing that he had to try to force the issue and brought off Papac, moving Whittaker to left back.

Of course, Rangers would always be susceptible on the break and their hearts were nearly broken in 78 minutes when Bezema burst clear after a slip by Whittaker.

The young striker eased past McGregor and seemed certain to score but was too casual with his strike and Whittaker cleared the ball off the line.

It was another escape and, incredibly, Rangers should have had the goal they wanted a minute later.

Ferguson was magnificent as he burst into the box and drove to the goal line. He swept the ball across and Darcheville had the simplest of chances to put the ball in the net but from six yards incredibly shot over the bar.

It proved to be the moment upon which the match hinged. Had the ball gone in Rangers would surely have gone on to achieve the result they needed to qualify.

Instead it turned into a nightmare for Rangers and Darcheville in particular.

Benzema killed the game when he latched onto Fabio Grosso’s long ball in 84 minutes and slid the ball under McGregor.

And then three minutes later he slammed a third goal to rub salt into the wounds when he drove a tremendous shot from the edge of the box into the left corner.

That was harsh on the Rangers players who had fought valiantly but there was one more sour twist.

Darcheville was shown a red card in the final minute for a reckless challenge on Kim Kallstrom and is likely to miss both legs of Rangers’ games in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup.

It was a hellish ending to what had been a terrific Champions League campaign and it may take Darcheville some time to recover from it all.

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