Rangers 2, Marseille 2.

SOMETIMES the evidence of your own eyes does not equate with justice.

Rangers emerged breathless, wet, and weary from their opening Group A

Champions' Cup match on their own backyard made heavy last night because

of torrential rain and somehow they were clutching one of the two

points. How they managed it may remain one of the game's secrets from

now until the last ball in the world has been burst.

There they were, stumbling aimlessly around in the quagmire and being

sucked towards what was becoming an embarrassing defeat. The French

champions, Marseille, had taken advantage of two defensive aberrations

and were knocking the ball and Rangers' players about as though it was

all too easy.

The Ibrox regulars, one sensed, were probably preparing to jeer their

own team off the pitch, but something happened. The game turned in the

closing stages, and after having looked at defeat for so long, Rangers

scored two goals.

It was remarkable because they did not look capable of extricating

themselves from the mess in which their dreadful play had led them.

Let's just say fortune did not merely smile on Rangers, it beamed on


Gary McSwegan, sent on in 77 minutes as a replacement for the

ineffective Trevor Steven, arrived at Fabian Barthez's far post a minute

later and met a searching Alexei Mikhailichenko cross from the left with

precision. McSwegan's header looped over Barthez and into the net. It

was the 22-year-old's first goal in the big team and it injected fresh

desire and will into his more illustrious colleagues.

Four minutes after his goal he played a crucial part in the build-up

which gave Ian Durrant the chance to cross from the left and Mark

Hateley stooped and headered. Rangers had equalised and stolen a point

from a team who might easily have won 4-0.

Marseille had been in total command and looked as though they were not

happy with their two-goal lead as they buzzed around Andy Goram's goal.

With a shade more luck they would have added to their tally, but when

the referee brought the match to a halt, they stood around in the mud as

though in a state of shock.

Rangers, of course, had to play without Ally McCoist, whose calf

injury is more serious than many had believed, and the suspended Ian

Ferguson. They also went into the game without Gary Stevens, Dale

Gordon, and Pieter Huistra, who had to settle for seats in the stand

because the manager, Walter Smith, opted to use Mikhailichenko, Hateley,

and Steven as his three non-nationals.

Smith used 19-year-old Neil Murray, who last played for the first team

away back in August against Stranraer in a Skol Cup tie, from the start,

and two other 19-year-olds, Steven Pressley and David Hagen, sat

alongside Ally Maxwell and Davie Dodds on the bench. It was hardly

reserve strength likely to have Marseille shaking in their boots.

Murray, in fact, did all right considering the circumstances and

conditions, and Pressley, who took over at the start of the second half

for Richard Gough, who damaged a thigh, was not too bad, although he did

cause Marseille's second goal in 57 minutes. He tried to pass back to

Goram, but succeeded in knocking the ball beyond his keeper and on to

Rudi Voller, who scored easily.

It was ironic that Pressley had taken over from Gough, whose mistake

in 30 minutes led to the opening goal. He mistimed a header, Voller

sprinted away with John Brown in pursuit, and when Gough ran to support

his partner, Alen Boksic was left in the middle waiting to be supplied

by the German internationalist. The ball arrived and he scored.

Rangers had just been taught how difficult and cruel life can be at

the highest level in Europe and for a long spell afterwards they were

treated almost with contempt by the French side, who were not slow to

make their presence felt in the tackle either.

In fact, there were times when it seemed as though Mike Tyson was not

in prison in America, but playing at the back for Marseille wearing the

No.4 jersey, and calling himself Basile Boli.

He tackles with teeth-clattering ferocity as several Rangers players

discovered and Eric Di Meco also put himself about. It was not

surprising that both these players were booked by a rather weak

Hungarian referee, Sando Puhl.

Boli bashed into Stuart McCall and Di Meco, who was sent off against

Strasbourg last Friday, almost assaulted Pressley.

The relief felt by Rangers and their supporters at the end turned

quickly to joy as they realised they had just escaped what surely would

have been a damaging defeat. Their completely unexpected comeback means

they can now head for Bochum and their second match, against CSKA

Moscow, in a fortnight with a degree of confidence.

McCoist should be fit and Ferguson free of suspension and they may

well be a different proposition. They will not be any worse than they

were last night. That could not be possible.

However, it might be time to look closely at Steven. He has had a

difficult time because of injury and illness since his return from

Marseille and there is no doubt he is not sharp enough yet, but he must

be a concern to the management.

He does not look anything like the kind of player who can take control

of midfield areas which are populated by the sort of people Rangers will

come across at this level. His form is worrying and Rangers must hope he

regains the will, touch, and vision which caused the French side to look

his way in the first place.

RANGERS -- Goram, Murray, Robertson, Gough, McPherson, Brown, Steven,

McCall, Durrant, Hateley, Mikhailichenko. Substitutes -- Maxwell,

Pressley, Hagen, McSwegan, Dodds.

MARSEILLE -- Barthez, Angloma, Di Meco, Boli, Sauzee, Desailly,

Casoni, Boksic, Voller, Pele, Deschamps. Substitutes -- Olmeta, Amoros,

Eydelie, Durand, Ferreri.

Referee -- S Puhl (Hungary).