DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Maurice Edu and Rangers were unable to prevent Valencia from surging to a huge win in Spain while injured Jermaine Jones watched from afar as Schalke settled for a scoreless draw in Tel Aviv.
Valencia CF 3 - 0 Rangers Glasgow
Maurice Edu made a quick recovery from his injury suffered over the weekend to return to Rangers lineup on Tuesday night, however their hosts Valencia proved too strong and scored a huge three-goal victory.
Edu was rated as a 50/50 chance to be available to play with a minor calf injury possibly holding him back, however he played 84 minutes from the start in Walter Smith's lineup which once again saw a five-defender setup aimed to disrupt Valencia's speedy attack.
Rangers nearly grabbed an early lead after eight minutes when Steven Naismith rocketed a shot off the post, then Edu's quick followup shot from the rebound was off-target.
Valencia took the lead three minutes past the half-hour when the visitors were unable to clear a corner from the danger area, with the ball landing at the feet of Roberto Soldado directly in front of goal to smash to the right side well out of reach of Allan McGregor.
The hosts were firmly in control and able to stifle the back-heavy Rangers formation, which Smith maintained throughout the contest despite needing a forward surge to rescue anything from the game.
They put the game out of reach with 19 minutes to go with Soldado again netted from 12 yards out after a short pass into the right side of the area from Juan Mata.
Naismith was inches away from giving his team some hope with eight minutes to go when his header bounced off the right post, however the hosts nailed down the game in the final seconds as Miguel sent in a cross which Tino Costa put away from dead center.
Smith's squad now sit third in Group C on five points with two games remaining. With leaders Manchester United easily beating last-place Bursapor they are guaranteed at least a spot in the Europa League knockout round.
They will likely need a draw or win when they host United on November 24 if they hope to reach the final 16 of the competition, and will almost certainly face a must-win situation two weeks later when they visit Turkey for their final Group C matchup.
In the meantime, they will be looking for three points to maintain their lead atop the Scottish Premier League standings when they visit last-place St. Mirren on Sunday.
Jermaine Jones is out of Schalke's lineup with an ankle injury and did not make the trip with the team for their 0-0 draw at Hapoel Tel Aviv. Schalke have a three-week break before resuming Group B action with a crucial game at home on November 24 against Lyon.
Oguchi Onyewu is not included in AC Milan's 25-man squad for the Group Stage and will not participate when they host Real Madrid on Wednesday.