Playing to a packed Bursa Ataturk stadium in Turkey, Rangers could only muster a 1-1 draw against Bursaspor tonight as they exited the UEFA Champions League.
Kenny Miller scored his 19th goal of the season but Rangers could only conclude their Champions League campaign with a draw against Bursaspor. The Ibrox striker broke the deadlock in the 19th minute when he lashed a left-footed shot from 12 yards past Yavuz Ozkan after good work from Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker down the left-hand side.
However, the Scottish champions were forced to defend for most of the second half and in the 79th minute Sercan Yildirim stabbed the ball past Allan McGregor to give the Turkish club their first Champions League point although they finished bottom of Group C. Rangers went into the match with no chance of qualifying for the last 16 of the competition but with a place in the UEFA Europa League already secured.
However, the Scottish champions were looking for the win which would improve Scotland's UEFA coefficient, net them around £750,000 in prize money and also help their chances of being seeded in UEFA's second-tier club competition.
Walter Smith, however, sprung a surprise by handing 18-year-old Darren Cole his debut as right-back in a five-man defence. Madjid Bougherra was back in the centre of defence beside David Weir, with Miller again playing the lone striker's role. The Turkish club, appearing in the UEFA Champions League for the first time, showed seven changes from the side which started in the 1-0 defeat in Glasgow.
However, Bursaspor, playing in green and white hoops similar to that of Rangers' Old Firm rivals Celtic, started the game that little bit sharper than the visitors. They might have taken the lead in the 16th minute when striker Leonel Nunez side-stepped Bougherra in the box to make himself a yard of space, only to fire over the bar. But three minutes later it was the Scottish champions who grabbed the lead with Miller's first Champions League goal of the season. Naismith sent Whittaker down the left and when his low cross came into the box, the Scotland striker sent a stunning strike from the penalty spot high past the Green Crocodiles' second-choice goalkeeper Yavuz Ozkan from 14 yards.
The Rangers support almost had more to cheer about minutes later when Cole curled a cross to the back post where Naismith was unmarked, but the former Kilmarnock player looped a header just over the bar. Bursaspor brought on Omer Erdogan and Pablo Batalla for Serdar Aziz and Huseyin Cimsir respectively at the start of the second half but within two minutes Miller sent a header past the post from another Whittaker cross. The Ibrox club, accustomed to playing defensively in Europe, retained their discipline and shape but they were struggling to get out of their own half at times.
In the 58th minute, after another corner had been cleared outside the box, Bursaspor skipper Bekir Ozan Has volleyed high over the bar and another opportunity for the Turkish side was missed. The Light Blues were sporadically pushing for the second goal but the Bursaspor keeper was mainly an interested spectator. James Beattie replaced the tiring Miller just past the hour, with Turgay Bahadir coming on for Nunez - a substitution booed by the home support.
Vladimir Weiss replaced Naismith in the 70th minute, before Federico Insua curled a 20-yard free-kick wide of McGregor's right-hand post. However, in the 79th minute Bursaspor got a deserved equaliser when Ozan Ipek's cross from the left found Sercan Yildirim 12 yards from goal and with the Ibrox defence caught flat-footed, he knocked the ball past McGregor.
Moments later Yildirim worked a one-two with Insua and found himself through on goal against McGregor - but missed his kick, allowing the Rangers keeper to gather. It was a remarkable let-off for the visitors, who had to defend with some desperation until the final whistle.