Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli believes Rangers are now favourites to reach the UEFA Cup Final despite the Glasgow side's failure to score at home in a goalless semi-final first-leg tie here at Ibrox Stadium.
Prandelli's men were frustrated by some dogged defending by a team who have become travel experts this season to put themselves on the brink of Rangers's first appearance in a European final for 36 years.
And while the 'Viola' will enjoy home advantage in Florence next Thursday, Prandelli believes his side's best chance will come from taking Rangers to a lottery of a penalty shoot-out.
“This result favours Rangers more than it does Fiorentina,” insisted Prandelli. “It gives them the advantage and while we will get praise for the way we performed we didn't do what we set out to do – get an away goal.
“We tried but every time we attacked we came up against a wall in the shape of the Rangers defence. The game is so tight now it could be decided on penalty-kicks.”
And if that's the case, Rangers – bidding for four trophies this season – have had plenty of recent practice.
In March, they beat Dundee United on penalties to win the Scottish League Cup final and only last Sunday they saw off St Johnstone in a shoot-out in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup.
But, as manager Walter Smith pointed out, Rangers have reached the last four of the UEFA Cup with impressive away results against Lyon, Panathinaikos and Sporting Lisbon.
The former Scotland boss will welcome back captain Barry Ferguson and influential midfielder Kevin Thomson from suspension for the away leg, which takes place just four days after Rangers's potential Scottish Premier League title-deciding clash with Old Firm rivals Celtic.
“We can take hope from the way we have performed on the road in Europe this season,” said Smith after Thursday's match. “We have scored in Stuttgart, in Greece and we won in both Lyon and Lisbon.
“Now it looks like we will have to go to Florence and score again to go through but I am confident enough in my players to believe they can do that.
“What they lack in ability they make up with heart and spirit and it's that sort of attitude we need in Italy.”
One banner summed up the feelings of the Rangers fans as their side tried to reach a European final for the first time since the Glasgow giants won the now-defunct Cup Winners' Cup in 1972.
'This is your chance. This is your time. Become legends,' it read.
However, they were forced to watch on nervously as Fiorentina forced a series of attacks.
In the ninth minute Rangers defender Kirk Broadfoot mis-kicked to former Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu but Giampaolo Pazzini failed to connect with the Romanian's ensuing cross.
At the other end, Steven Whittaker then curled a 20-metre effort over Sebastien Frey's crossbar before Neil Alexander denied Denmark international Martin Jorgensen from a similar range at the other end.
Mutu then had one final chance before the break when his 31st minute downward header was saved by Alexander.
The second period saw a far more adventurous Rangers, with Nacho Novo getting forward more to support the attack.
Novo's 55th minute cross almost set up the opening goal but Steve Davis couldn't get his header on target.
The Spaniard then shot into the side-netting before Fiorentina tried to strike the killer blow with a 35 metre Mutu strike that was well saved by Alexander to leave the tie deadlocked.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!