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EUROPE: Perfect week for Maurice Edu, Rangers

Could the past week have gone any better for Rangers FC?

The Scottish champs bounced back from the previous weekend's debacle against Old Firm rival Celtic to claim a spot in the UEFA Europa League's last 16 -- in most dramatic fashion, and through our local hero, and doing a good deed for Scotland all the while -- then took command, in a way, in the Scottish Premier League when its hated nemesis was unexpectedly beaten.

Fontana's Maurice Edu was the hero in Lisbon, scoring in stoppage Thursday to give Rangers a 2-2 draw with Sporting. That made for 3-3 aggregate, and the away-goals tiebreaker favored the Blues, 2-1.

The victory provided Scotland a second automatic spot for the 2012-13 season in the Champions League, pushing the SPL above Switzerland's league to 15th in the UEFA table used to dole out European berths. That does one of two things: Ensures Rangers a Champions League berth even if it doesn't win the league title next season, or gives despised Celtic that berth.

Maybe that spurred Celtic's gift Sunday. As Rangers dispatched St. Johnstone, 4-0, the first-place Bhoys -- unbeaten in their last 17 -- were dismissed, 2-0, at fifth-place Motherwell, reducing the gap to their Old Firm nemesis from eight to five points. Because Rangers has two games in hand, it controls its fate. Of course, the final-stage showdown, probably in May, likely will decide the champion.

The Glasgow-based clubs meet twice before that, Wednesday in a Scottish Cup fifth-round replay and March 20 in the League Cup final.

ETC.: Former Galaxy forward Edson Buddle came off the bench to score the final goal in FC Ingolstadt's 4-1 rout at Karlsruhe, his second goal in six appearances since arriving in January. … Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra tested Nice goalkeeper David Ospina, Saint-Etienne's only shot on goal in a 2-0 defeat, its third in a row. Les Verts (9-8-8), once a prime player in the race, now sits nine points out of a European spot. The gap to the relegation zone is only slightly larger, at 10. … Michael Bradley watched Aston Villa's 4-1 romp over Blackburn from the bench, and Brad Friedel lost his shutout on a deflected shot with nine minutes to go. … Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan and Belgian champ RSC Anderlecht have a top-of-table clash Friday against Genk. Both are 18-3-6; Genk is No. 1 on goal difference.

  • AREA PLAYERS IN EUROPE

D CARLOS BOCANEGRA (Alta Loma/UCLA)

Club: Saint-Etienne (France, Ligue 1)

Last week: 90 minutes as seventh-place Les Verts (9-8-8) were beaten, 2-0, Saturday vs. Nice

Season: 21 league games (21 starts) with 2 goals, 23 games (23 starts) with 2 goals in all competitions

Next: Saturday at 14th-place Caen (7-10-8)

M MICHAEL BRADLEY (Manhattan Beach)

Club: Aston Villa (England, Premier League)

Last week: Did not play as the 12th-place Villans (8-11-9) won, 4-1, Saturday vs. Blackburn

Season: 1 league game (0 starts) for Aston Villa; 22 games (20 starts) with 4 goals in all competitions for Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany)

Next: Wednesday at Manchester City in F.A. Cup fifth round, Saturday at seventh-place Bolton (9-9-10)

D JAY DENNY (Santa Monica)

Club: Hednesford Town (England, Southern League Premier Division)

Last week: 90 minutes as the sixth-place Pitmen (16-8-4) won, 2-1, Wednesday at Stourbridge and 4-0 Saturday at Bashley

Season: 27 league games (25 starts) with 1 goal, 9 cup games (8 starts) with 1 goal, 36 games (34 starts) with 2 goals in all competitions

Next: Tuesday at Chippenham Town in the Southern League Cup semifinals

M MAURICE EDU (Fontana)

Club: Rangers FC (Scotland, Premier Division)

Last week: 90 minutes in Thursday's 2-2 draw at Sporting Lisbon, scoring the equalizing goal in stoppage to send Rangers to the UEFA Europa League round of 16 (vs. PSV Eindhoven) on away goals (2-1) after 3-3 aggregate; 90 minutes as the second-place Blues (19-4-2) beat St. Johnstone, 4-0, on Sunday

Season: 20 league games (14 starts) with 2 goals, 6 UEFA games (6 starts) with 1 goal, 30 games (23 starts) with 5 goals in all competitions

Next: Wednesday at Celtic in a Scottish Cup fifth-round replay, Saturday at 11th-place St. Mirren (5-15-7)

M BENNY FEILHABER (Irvine/UCLA)

Club: AGF Aarhus (Denmark, 1.Division)

Last week: League is on winter break

Season: 14 league games (14 starts) with 4 goals, 17 games (16 starts) overall with 7 goals

Next: March 20 vs. Hobro (5-7-3)

G BRAD FRIEDEL (Bay Village, Ohio/UCLA)

Club: Aston Villa (England, Premier Division)

Last week: 90 minutes, making 1 save, as the 12th-place Villans (8-11-9) won, 4-1, Saturday vs. Blackburn

Season: 28 league games (28 starts), 47 goals allowed, 86 saves, 5 shutouts; 32 games (32 starts), 54 goals allowed, 99 saves, 5 shutouts in all competitions

Next: Wednesday at Manchester City in F.A. Cup fifth round, Saturday at seventh-place Bolton (9-9-10)

M SACHA KLJESTAN (Huntington Beach)

Club: RSC Anderlecht (Belgium, Jupiler League)

Last week: Did not play in Thursday's 2-0 loss at Ajax Amsterdam, which eliminated RSCA from the UEFA Europa League round-of-32 on 5-0 aggregate; Saturday's game at Eupen was postponed until March 12

Season: 16 league games (11 starts) with 2 goals, 6 UEFA games (6 starts) with 1 goal, 24 games (19 starts) with 3 goals in all competitions

Next: Friday vs. first-place Genk (18-3-6)

D DALLAS MOORE (Santa Monica)

Club: St. Neots Town FC (England, UCL Premier Division)

Last week: Tuesday's game vs. Newport Pagnell Town was postponed because of a waterlogged field; did not play in Saturday's 3-0 Hunts Senior Cup semifinal victory over Eaton Socon

Season: 5 league games (5 starts) with 1 goal, 1 cup game (1 start), 6 games (6 starts) with 1 goal in all competitions for St. Neots Town; 13 games (13 starts) for Halesowen Town (England) with 1 goal

Next: Wednesday at 10th-place Blackstones FC (12-9-9), Saturday vs. Boston Town (15-9-3)

F YURA MOVSISYAN (Pasadena/Pasadena City College)

Club: FC Krasnodar (Russia, Russian Premier League)

Last week: League is in preseason

Season: 25 games (20 starts) with 14 goals for Randers in all competitions

Next: Season opener March 12 at Anzhi Makhachkala

F MATT TAYLOR (Irvine/UCLA)

Club: Rot Weiss Ahlen (Germany, 3. Bundesliga)

Last week: 90 minutes as 16th-place Rot Weiss lost, 3-0, Saturday to league leader Eintracht Braunschweig

Season: 17 league games (17 starts) with 10 goals, 18 games (18 starts) with 10 goals in all competitions

Next: Saturday at 10th-place Carl Zeiss Jena (9-10-6)

BOBBY WOOD (Irvine)

Club: TSV 1860 Munich (Germany, 2. Bundesliga)

Past week: 72nd-minute substitute as 1860 (9-7-8) climbed to ninth with a 1-0 victory Friday at Union Berlin

Season: 4 league games (0 starts), 22 games (14 starts) with 7 goals in all competitions

Next: Friday vs. 15th-place RW Oberhausen (6-13-5)