Rangers face a major uphill struggle to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League after losing 1-0 at Ibrox to Malomo in the first leg of their third qualifying round.
Malmo started the game on the ascendancy and secured that all important away goal through a superb strike from Daniel Larsson on 16 minutes. And the Swedish side continued to have the better chances of the tie with Brazilian Wilton Figueiredo causing problems in the Rangers back line throughout the 90 minutes.
Rangers playmaker Steven Naismith missed a number of chances for Rangers in the Second Half, but it was the Rangers keeper Allan McGregor who was called into action more than his Malmo counterpart.
Malmo take that win and that vital away goal into next week’s Second Leg tie in Sweden. Rangers, who will be without their fans as they have been banned by UEFA for one European away game, will need to score at least two goals to progress into the next round. Lose and they will drop down into the Europa League.
Rangers were given their first warning of what they would be expecting for the remainder of the match on nine minutes when Figeiredo beat two defenders in the box hit a ferocious striker, which resulted in McGregor palming the ball only as a far as Jimmy Durmaz, however he could only side foot his effort wide.
Rangers full back Steven Whittaker produced a superb cross for Nikica Jelavic but the striker headed wide.
But it was Malmo who took the lead. Full back Steven Whittaker making a costly error just outside the Rangers box, was robbed of the ball by Durmaz who laid the ball off to Figueiredo, but the Brazilian neatly backheeled the ball into the path of Malmo’s Number Seven Daniel Larsson, who fired a superb striker past McGregor in the Gers goal to give Malmo a crucial away goal and stun the home crowd, who had their side to make light work of the Swedes.
Malmo were fired up by that goal and continued to press forward, with Brazilian Figueiredo pulling a shot wide, before seeing a free kick deflected into the path of McGregor.
Captain David Weir, who was suspended for Saturday’s opening SPL game against Hearts, lasted only 30 minutes and hobbled off replaced by Spaniard Ortiz.
Rangers finally tested Malmo’s Czech keeper Dusan Melicharek, who was at full stretch to save a curling free kick from Rangers midfielder Steven Davis.
With half time fast approaching, Rangers pressed forward-looking for an equaliser. Defender Madjid Bougherra hooked a shot wide and Jelavic deflected a Davis cross off him and out for a goal kick.
Into the Second Half, and despite that late scare at the end of the First Half, Malmo started they way they started the first half – pressing the Rangers defence. Figueiredo caught the Rangers defence flat-footed as he raced down the right flank sending in a neat cross that Larsson latched onto, but couldn’t connect properly with it.
The Brazilian then curled a free kick towards the top corner of the Rangers goal after Sasa Papac had fouled Larsson, but McGregor continued his fine form and tipped the ball over for a corner.
Despite having home advantage, Rangers chances were few and far between, however Lee McCulloch tested Melicharek with a 25 yard low shot, with the keeper turning it around the post.
Again Malmo playmaker Figueiredo broke forward and using his silky skills, held off pressure from two Rangers defenders before he fired off a shot, but McGregor again managed to push the over denying Malmo once more.
On 67 minutes Steven Naismith missed a gilt-edged chance to equalise when Jelavic rolled the ball across goal from the right flank but the striker stretched and poked the ball wide of the Malmo goal.
And just a minute later Naismith again had a chance to equalise with Jelavic assisting once more. The striker found Naismith with a cross but once more the forward was off target with the goal gaping.
Northern Irish international Steven Davis then saw his well placed shot from the edge of the box just go over the bar late on.
Malmo substitute Dardan Rexhepi and Jilon Hamad both came close for the visitors but the Swedish side settled for a 1-0 win, only their third victory away from home all season.
After the match Malmo manager Rikard Norling said: “It is the best team we have played against since I’ve been here. We have played a good side and now we have to play them again at home. It will be very, very difficult for us then as well, so we will need to play at our best even then.”
Rangers manager Ally McCoist said after the match: “One of the worrying things from our point of view is that we didn’t start the game well. I sat here on Saturday and said the same thing after the Hearts game. The standard of goals we are losing is certainly worrying. But I do believe that we created enough in the second half to indicate that the tie is far from over. I do believe that we can go over there and score so there is plenty to play for.”
The Rangers legend added: “They looked that little bit sharper than us, especially in the first half and they did look fitter in terms of the way that they went about it. Is it down to the fact that they are so far into their season? I don’t know. But that doesn’t help us, the fact is we have to be sharper in the second leg and I am determined we will be.
“There is a lack of sharpness and hopefully it is because it is early on in the season but you have to get over that and that’s what they will have to do. We know what we have to do. We have to score or we are out the competition. But I will say again, I really believe we will score over there and we are very confident because we made enough chances, especially in the second half and on another night we might have had two or three. We all expected a little bit more. There is no getting away from it.”