Zenit break Gers' hearts
Rangers fall at the final hurdle
Zenit St Petersburg won the Uefa Cup in Manchester with a 2-0 victory over Rangers.
The Gers battled bravely but were unable to find an answer to second-half strikes from Igor Denisov and Konstantin Zurianov, and their 36-year wait for European glory goes on.
A tight first-half saw few clear-cut opportunities, with Zenit dominating possession without managing to break down a resolute Gers defence.
Andrei Arshavin provided the cutting edge for the Russians and looked dangerous in sporadic breaks forward, while Rangers were content to try and hit their opponents on the counter on the rare occasions they ventured into the final third.
Walter Smith's side were able to establish more of a foothold on proceedings after the break and almost took the lead when Barry Ferguson saw a stabbed effort cleared off the line by a desperate Zenit defence.
However, on 73 minutes a slick move involving Denisov and Arshavin resulted in the former slotting a low effort into the bottom corner past a helpless Neil Alexander.
Rangers did all they could to muster an equaliser, throwing on three attacking substitutes in a desperate bid to find a breakthrough.
The best of their opportunities fell to Nacho Novo, but the striker could only fire high into the stands when presented with a late chance 10-yards out.
Deep into injury-time Zenit then added a second when Fatih Tekke beat the Gers' offside trap to square for Zurianov to tap into an unguarded net.
The masses of Rangers supporters who had descended on Manchester were ultimately left despondent but can be proud of their side after a remarkable European adventure.
Rangers were forced to soak up the pressure early on when Zenit's star man Arshavin was released through on goal, only to pull his shot wide of the upright and ripple the side-netting.
At the other end, Darcheville delivered a promising ball from the left with Ferguson bearing down on goal, but the skipper was denied the opener by a timely Russian challenge.
Kevin Thomson then gave away a foolish free-kick 35 yards out. Radek Sirl took responsibility for the set-piece but Rangers goalkeeper Alexander did well to smother after the ball had taken a wicked deflection en route to goal.
Alexander was called into action again when Brahim Hemdani lost possession just outside the box and the ball broke to Aleksandr Anyukov whose smart shot was initially fumbled and then held by the Gers keeper.
With Rangers doing little to trouble Vyacheslav Malafeev in the Zenit goal, the Russians were doing all the pressing and Zurianov screwed wide of the near post after being set up for the shot by Roman Shirokov.
Steven Whittaker's header over the crossbar from Davis' cross failed to worry the Zenit goalkeeper before Darcheville was tripped by Denisov and Rangers were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area.
It was a decent chance but Thomson's effort failed to make it past a wall of white jerseys after a tense build-up to the shot.
Kirk Broadfoot then appeared to handle in the box from an Arshavin cross seconds before the half-time whistle but no penalty was forthcoming from Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt and the first half ended goalless.
Rangers had a penalty shout of their own dismissed shortly after the restart.
Darcheville threatened first of all at the near post and was denied by Malafeev before Ferguson claimed his rebound shot in front of goal was handled by Denisov.
Whittaker could have had the net bulging when he met a flick from Darcheville before teeing up a well-struck shot that was deflected wide by Shirokov.
Seconds later there was more drama at the other end when Alexander raced out of his box to close down Arshavin but the Zenit man rounded the goalkeeper only to look on in disbelief as his shot was nodded off the line by Sasa Papac.
When the breakthrough came after 72 minutes Arshavin was instrumental in the opening goal, playing a one-two with Denisov who raced into the box before slotting home from eight yards, leaving Alexander with no chance.
Zurianov almost doubled the advantage within a few minutes when his shot struck the left post, before Rangers swapped Papac for Novo in a bid to haul themselves back into the game.
Lee McCulloch, back from injury, was then thrown into the action for Hemdani with 10 minutes to go.
With time rapidly running out, Rangers' last throw of the dice came in the shape of substitute Kris Boyd but it was Darcheville and Novo who both squandered late chances to force the game into extra-time.
As they reflected on big misses, Zurianov put the ball in the back of the net from close range to wrap up the win as Zenit claimed their first European trophy.
Zenit St Petersburg Team Statistics Rangers
2 Goals 0
0 1st Half Goals 0
7 Shots on Target 4
7 Shots off Target 4
5 Blocked Shots 2
9 Corners 2
12 Fouls 12
3 Offsides 0
1 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
79.5 Passing Success 73.9
24 Tackles 27
83.3 Tackles Success 70.4
60.9 Possession 39.1
62.6 Territorial Advantage 37.4