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Rangers F.C. 2, A.C. Milan 2


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AS A source of both entertainment and income, Rangers' friendly engagement with AC Milan was an unequivocal success last night. A remarkable attendance of over 45,000 were attracted to Govan for the visit of the seven-times European champions and they did not leave disappointed.

Four goals, all of them in a second half which did not feature David Beckham who was replaced at the interval, were shared by two teams enjoying a break from serious business. It amounted to good business for Rangers who will have made a six-figure profit from the exercise in their well-publicised times of financial problems.

As part of their commitment to this fixture, it seemed Milan had included a clause which prevented any serious form of tackling. The disclaimer would seek to protect their biggest names from suffering any setbacks which might see them miss any of a Serie A title pursuit behind their city rivals and reigning Italian champions Inter.

The lack of a genuinely competitive edge did not seem to trouble the supporters who had been tempted out on a wintry night, although the message did not get through to everyone.

Youthful naivete could perhaps be used in John Fleck's defence when he left Felipe Mattioni crumpled in a heap with an uncompromising challenge in the opening minutes, but the 17-year-old Rangers prodigy incurred Milan's wrath nonetheless.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti rushed to the edge of his technical area to glare at Fleck, while the youngster was also reproached by Beckham. Fleck's contrition towards Mattioni was genuine and accepted, however.

While the Rangers fans had principally come to see Beckham, Ronaldinho & Co in the flesh, they would have been gratified to see their own team thrive in a non-pressurised situation as they produced some attractive passing football.

Pedro Mendes, partnered in central midfield by the fit again Maurice Edu as captain Barry Ferguson began the evening among the substitutes, was prominent in much of their eye-catching work and saw a powerful 20-yard shot deflected narrowly wide.

Edu, understandably keener than most to make an impression after such a frustrating start to his Rangers career, found Fleck in space on the left with a neat pass, the young forward's terrific first touch then allowing him to wrongfoot Philippe Senderos and float in a cross which Kyle Lafferty should have done better with than head over from close range.

While Milan were some way short of fully exerting themselves, they delivered enough of the kind of skill the big crowd had paid to see. They should have opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Ronaldinho's brilliant ball over the top played in Filippo Inzaghi, but the supreme poacher did not connect properly as Allan McGregor was able to make a smothering save.

Fleck's self confidence among such elevated company was another indication of his rich promise and his precisely delivered corner from the right picked out Lee McCulloch whose thumping header was well saved by Milan goalkeeper Dida. McGregor was a mere spectator at the other end when, from Milan's first set-piece opportunity, Ronaldinho curled in a trademark effort which struck the helpless Rangers' keeper's right-hand post.

Fleck should have seized a moment to treasure when played in by Mendes in Rangers' next attack, but struck his low shot too close to Dida.

With Andriy Shevchenko cutting an anonymous figure, while Beckham flitted in and out of proceedings, Ronaldinho continued to the focal point of Milan's best moments. He picked out Inzaghi again with another sublime pass but the striker was foiled once more by McGregor.

Beckham was among those who did not reappear for the second half. For the Rangers fans, the raft of substitutions represented rare sightings of Christian Dailly, DaMarcus Beasley and Andrius Velicka. The changes made by Milan, introducing Clarence Seedorf and Kaka among others, simply emphasised the gulf in resources.

When Seedorf curled a delicious effort narrowly off target, it seemed as if the visitors were poised to emphasise their superiority but it was one of Rangers' understudies who made the breakthrough.

Beasley, a member of the PSV Eindhoven side controversially beaten by Milan in the 2005 Champions League semi-finals, savoured the moment as he pounced on an error from Matteo Darmian then shrugged off Andrea Pirlo's challenge before driving a precise low shot with the outside of his left boot beyond Dida into the corner.

The lead lasted just five minutes, however, as a calamitous mix-up in the Rangers defence gifted Milan their equaliser. In attempting to cut out a Kaka cross, Dailly merely succeeded in striking the ball against team-mate Steven Whittaker. The ball rebounded to Alexandre Pato and the young Brazilian stroked it home from close range.

Rangers' substitute goalkeeper Neil Alexander then saved brilliantly from Inzaghi, but was helpless to prevent Kaka putting Milan 2-1 in front with 12 minutes remaining with a sweetly struck right-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area after latching onto Seedorf's pass.

The home side were not prepared to accept even honourable defeat, however, and levelled in the 83rd minute through an unlikely source when Sasa Papac surged forward and finished off a fine pass from Aaron Niguez in admirably composed fashion.

Rangers: McGregor (Alexander 46), Whittaker, Bougherra (Dailly 46), Weir (Broadfoot 46), Papac; McCulloch (Boyd 81); Naismith, Edu (Davis 75), Mendes (Ferguson 46), Fleck (Beasley 46); Lafferty (Velicka 46). Subs not used: Miller, Niguez, Davis.

AC Milan: Dida, Mattioni (Jankulovski 61), Silva, Senderos (Darmian 46), Antonini (Albertazzi 75); Beckham (Seedorf 46), Flamini (Cardacio 61), Pirlo; Ronaldinho (Kaka 61), Inzaghi, Shevchenko (Pato 68). Subs not used: Donnarumma, Strasser

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