Rangers 0-1 Malmo

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport
Larsson (right) celebrates his well-taken opener after 18 minutes
Larsson (right) celebrates his well-taken opener after 18 minutes

Rangers face an uphill battle to qualify for the next round of the Champions League after losing the first leg of their qualifier against Malmo.

The Swedes took the lead on 18 minutes when a flick from Wilton Figueiredo set up Daniel Larsson, who smashed in.

Rangers improved and should have overturned the deficit but Steven Naismith shot wide twice in succession.

Malmo kept Rangers keeper Allan McGregor busy and, though Steve Davis went close, the hosts could not reply.

Figueiredo was a constant threat for the Swedish champions and he twice had shots well saved, one a free-kick and another a curling effort after a fine counter attack.

Yet the way in which Ally McCoist's side failed to make a breakthrough in this third qualifying round tie leaves them a huge task in the return leg on 3 August, with thoughts of making the group stages a long way off.

They will need to begin better than they did on this occasion - they were sluggish at the start and it was from Steven Whittaker's mistake that Larsson struck what proved to be the winner.

The Rangers defender lost possession on the right side of his own penalty box, allowing Malmo to pounce, and Larsson fired in to give further encouragement to their already vocal fans.

Rangers improved following David Weir's hamstring injury after half an hour, which made them change tactics and employ two centre-backs rather than three.

And soon afterwards Davis carved out their first real chance by going close with a free-kick, before his cross was mistimed by Nikica Jelavic when the striker looked well placed.

Rangers boss McCoist had warned of Malmo's attacking threat before the game and Larsson missed a chance to make it 2-0 soon after the break when he could not connect with Figueiredo's right-wing cross, and the Brazilian forced two fine saves from McGregor.

Rangers should have overturned the deficit in the space of a few minutes, but Naismith missed on two occasions, both chances coming at the back post from Jelavic crosses across goal.

As the hosts increased the pressure on their opponents, Davis shot just over from a well-worked effort, but Malmo were always a threat on the break and McCoist can have few complaints in what proved to be an open but frustrating encounter.

The difference was Larsson, a name that has already caused Rangers fans torment in the past.

And his strike will create extra pressure for the next encounter, with qualification for the group stage crucial to Rangers' financial situation.

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