Auxerre 2 Rangers 2

Last updated : 23 November 2006 By BenGunn

Rangers secured the point that they needed to guarantee European football beyond Christmas for the second successive season. The Ibrox club sealed their place in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup as both sides of the Old Firm secured their involvement in European football beyond the yuletide festivities for the first time in 35 years.

Auxerre started the game in spirited fashion and Ireneusz Jelen made a fine driving run at the Rangers defence before letting fly with a rising right-foot drive from the edge of the area that Gers goalie Alan McGregor did well to tip over the bar for a corner. Rangers' best chance of the first half came after 17 minutes when Scotland skipper Barry Ferguson threaded an excellent ball through to Nacho Novo and the diminutive Spaniard raced towards the Auxerre area, before seeing his near-post shot well blocked by Fabien Cool. Midway though the first half, McGregor pulled off an excellent double save to deny the French side. Jelen cut in from the left before firing in a curling right-foot effort that was well parried away by McGregor before the Ibrox keeper pulled off another fine stop to deny Benoit Pedretti netting the rebound. But McGregor could do nothing to stop Jelen firing Auxerre in front after 31 minutes. The Pole was allowed acres of space by the Rangers defence as he ran on to a long clearance from Younes Kaboul before firing low across the keeper into the bottom left corner of the net. Rangers rode their luck as they survived a strong Auxerre penalty shout just before the break when Julien Rodriguez clumsily bundled Bakari Sagna to the ground inside the area.

Auxerre spurned a chance to double their advantage on the hour mark when Oumar Kalabane sent a header crashing off the crossbar, before Jelen's rebound was cleared off the line by Alan Hutton. Then 60 seconds later, Rangers were level as Novo continued his excellent recent goalscoring record to net the equaliser for the Ibrox club with a low toepoke past Cool from eight yards. Auxerre introduced Daniel Niculae with 15 minutes remaining and the Romanian made an immediate impact, restoring Auxerre's lead with his first touch. The Ibrox defence failed to deal with a Jelen cross and Niculae headed past McGregor. But Rangers exhibited great spirit to level for the second time late in the game as they secured their place in the last 32 of the competition. Sagna failed to clear Charlie Adam's cross and poacher extraordinaire Kris Boyd capitalised to slam the ball home from close range.

Auxerre: Cool, Jaures, Kalabane, Kaboul, Sagna, Pedretti, Cheyrou, Akale, Thomas, Pieroni, Jelen.
Subs: Sauvage, Ba, Martin, Niculae, Vadocz, Traore, Lejeune

Rangers: McGregor, Svensson, Hutton, Smith, Adam, Ferguson, Hemdani, Clement, Prso, Novo, Kris Boyd
Subs: Letizi, Rae, Sionko, Sebo, Buffel, Rodriguez, N'Diaye

Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)

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