RANGERS were crowned as the Kings of Lyon. In the end, Walter Smith's side couldn't conquer the continent.

A European campaign that started against the minnows of FK Zeta ended in defeat to big-spending Zenit. It was a season like no other, one which brought reward as well as regret and the occasions, the names, were memorable.

Some details may fade with the passing of more than a decade, but the results will always stand the test of time and victory over Lyon in October 2007 was one such moment as Rangers shocked the French champions.

Goals from Lee McCulloch, Daniel Cousin and DaMarcus Beasley earned Smith's side a remarkable away win and Rangers - courtesy of a draw with Barcelona on matchday three - were soon seven points to the good in Group E.

From the high of victory in France, Rangers suffered a crushing low as Sidney Govou netted early and Karim Benzema scored twice late on to earn Alain Perrin's side a revenge win at Ibrox. As one door closed, another opened for Rangers and they would embark on a run that took them to the UEFA Cup final.

On Thursday night, Lyon will once again make the trip to Glasgow as Rangers return to Europa League action. The years may have elapsed, but the matches remain vivid for former Ibrox midfielder Kevin Thomson.

"The first one was a fairy tale, really, with how good we were on the night and it was a typical smash and grab," Thomson said.

"We were unbelievable on the counter, really hard to beat and everyone full of energy and implementing the tactics that the manager wanted. They had won the French title a few years on the bounce so the magnitude of the result was breath-taking.

"The second one, I look back and think that every cloud has got a silver lining. We made a great start and had seven points out of nine from Stuttgart, Lyon and Barcelona but then lost to Lyon when we had a shot at the last 16.

"The Champions League final would have been far, far, far from our reach, but we then went to the UEFA Cup final. It was almost like it was meant to be.

"But when you are a Rangers player, you hate getting beat and it was a disappointing night for us. The away game, you look back at some of the amazing victories we had on the road, and that was right up there."

The star-studded ranks of Barcelona were the main attractions in Group E that season but Lyon - who would go on to win their sixth successive Ligue 1 title - had their share of household names.

Benzema was the most talked about of the lot at that time. His talent and potential were obvious and the man who scored twice at Ibrox has gone on to become a star for club and country.

"I remember Benzema just being a class act," Thomson said. "He was a level apart from what we had and he punished us on the night at Ibrox. You just know these guys are special.

"It was the same when we played against Zenit and they had Andrey Arshavin. You can just tell.

"I remember playing against Sami Khedira when he was at Stuttgart and he was one of the Germans that was catching the eye. Before you know it, he is at Real Madrid.

"You can tell when you come up against a special talent and exciting players, like Benzema, that they are set for the top.

"Anyone can have a fighter’s chance over 90 minutes and we see that in the cups but top players stand out.

"He has proven that he has been one of the best players in the world since then and shown his quality.

"You knew he was a level above, albeit playing in a wonderful team that had lots of top players and full internationalists with the European giants. To say he was special is an understatement, really."

That brace from Benzema earned Lyon retribution for their surprise defeat on home soil and ended Rangers' aspirations of Champions League progression as they lost their final three games in the group.

The tables were turned on Smith's side. Rangers had punched above their weight, but Lyon would land the knockout blows as the Light Blues had to settle for the UEFA Cup.

Thomson said: "Big Lee scored early on from a set-piece and that gave us something to hold on to. That makes playing on the counter-attack more dangerous.

"It was the opposite at Ibrox, really, when they scored and we had to open up a wee bit. That didn’t suit us as much, we had to start chasing the game and it was a winner takes all game. It never suited us.

"I felt the final was the same. If we had scored first against Zenit, I think we would have gone on and won.

"When you concede first, the game changes and with the athleticism and quality these teams possess, the more stretched the game becomes the more vulnerable you can be.

"Away, we were robust, hard to beat and unbelievable on the counter but at home we were just picked off by a quality side."

Lyon - now under the control of former Bayer Leverkusen manager Peter Bosz - may not have the strength and depth that they possessed 14 years ago, but they will arrive at Ibrox as favourites to top the section this season.

Sparta Prague and Brondby also lie in wait for Gerrard's side this season. The ambition is clear for the champions and Thomson is confident Rangers can rise to the occasion on the continent once again.

Thomson said: "You are playing for a club that is rich in history and success and the fans demand that so the team have to put on a good performance.

"It is a great group, the games could easily be Champions League fixtures. The boys, the club and the fans will want to try and progress as far as they possibly can, regardless of who they are drawn against.

"Listen, everybody will be disappointed because everybody wanted to get into the Champions League and to fall at that hurdle was obviously tough to take.

"But they now have an opportunity, on a massive stage, to go and showcase the talent that the squad have got.

"I know what the manager is like, no matter who they play against he will put out a team that will compete and that wants to be successful for the club.

"You need to get behind them and hopefully the boys can go and showcase themselves well.

"Like I always say, when you play for Rangers, no matter what group you are in or team you are in or what competition you are in, people expect you to do the business and go as far as you can. I am sure that will be the mindset of the group."