BARRY FERGUSON no doubt shuts his eyes and dreams of lifting the Uefa Cup just a few miles south of the Ibrox pitch he lit up last night with yet another awesome display.

Hampden Park in May - achievable aim or pipe dream? At the moment, it's still a bit off and now Rangers are down to the business end of the Uefa Cup with the major movers and shakers stating their intent of being in this city in a few month's time to pursue the silverware.

But with Ferguson leading from the front, his two-goal return and overall display in the 4-0 crushing of Hapoel Tel Aviv simply inspirational, Rangers will always have a chance of having a right good stab at getting there.

The manner in which Walter Smith's side dealt with the hurdle laid in front of them, a display of slick, attacking football harnessed with desire and will to succeed, has at last given their suffering support something to hang on to this season.

Now into the last 16, where they will face Spanish side Osasuna over two legs next month, Rangers have earned the right to be where they are.

The record speaks for itself. Eight games played, five won, just one defeat and no goals conceded in four ties at Ibrox.

Impressive form that poses the major question: Can they now kick up a level and make a genuine attempt at winning this trophy?

Certainly, if performances like last night can be repeated they have a chance.

But the heavyweights of the tournament remain - Spurs, Seville and Werder Bremen probably the most fancied - and Rangers will really have to hit the heights if they are to joust with these teams and stay on the road to Hampden.

A lot will depend on keeping players fit. Rangers have around 16 or 17 senior players with the likes of Thomas Buffel, Stevie Smith and Andy Webster out. They could also have Allan McGregor banned after his controversial red card.

In Ferguson, though, they have a player who would grace any of the sides left in this competition.

And, for the first team in a long while, he had six or seven others around him who stepped up to the plate. With a 2-1 deficit to turn around Rangers went after Hapoel from the off. The Israelis looked nervous, their passing terrible, and it was no surprise when Rangers drew first blood in front of a crowd of over 46,000 in the 23rd minute.

A sweeping move across midfield saw Nacho Novo in behind, and the little Spaniard picked out his skipper in the box with a fine cut-back which Ferguson drove high into the net.

Rangers had the goal they badly craved. And eight minutes later they took an iron grip on the tie. Skipper Josef Abukasisasattempted a suicide pass across to the right back area.

But he hit the ball straight at Kris Boyd and, while the striker appeared to get the benefit of the doubt as the ball came off his hand, he wasted no time in drilling home No.22 of the season.

Hapoel were stunned. They had a brief flurry at the start of the second half, but Rangers chased another goal and it duly came in the 73rd minute.

Slack passing allowed the excellent Alan Hutton to intercept a pass and the ball fell for Dado Prso. The big Croat looked up and squared for Ferguson to clip home the third of the game.

What followed before the retake left most in the stadium bamboozled. Hapoel sub Luciano De Bruno got involved with Brahim Hemdani and McGregor and then fell to the ground.

The keeper claimed his innocence, but was red carded by ref Matteo Trefoloni, much to the annoyance of Walter Smith, who remonstrated with his opposite number, Nir Levin.

Although 4-2 ahead in the tie, Rangers had to see the job out with 10 men, Stefan Klos coming on for a rare outing. He had little to do, though, and Charlie Adam hit the fourth in injury time.

Now, with European football secured in March for the second consecutive year, Rangers must raise the bar again and get past Osasuna into the last eight.

If they do, Ferguson's dreams will maybe have more of a chance of becoming reality.

Rangers: McGregor, Hutton, Weir, Hemdani, Murray, Ferguson, Rae, Thomson, Burke (Adam 90), Boyd (Prso 64), Novo (Klos 75). Subs Not Used: Sionko, Sebo, McMillan, Perry. Sent Off: McGregor (74). Booked: Rae, Novo, Murray. Goals: Ferguson 24, Boyd 35, Ferguson 73, Adam 90.

Hapoel Tel-Aviv: Elimelech, Bondar, Doani, Antebi, Badir, Dago (De Bruno 46), Abuksis (Vermot 65), Wellington (Jolic 80), Toama, Ogbona, Barda. Subs Not Used: Ben Shaanan, Chen, Abutbul, Peretz. Booked: Doani, De Bruno. Agg (5-2) Att: 46,213 Ref: Matteo Trefoloni (Italy) Need to know

Was it a good game? Very enjoyable and played at a good tempo with a real edge.

Rangers' best player? Barry Ferguson produced one of his finest ever displays.

And their top man? Keeper Shavit Elimelech produced three great saves or it could have been more.

What about the ref? Matteo Trefoloni was having a decent game up until controversial red card. Then he became very erratic.

Who's up next? Hibs at Easter Road on March 4 as Rangers face five games in 15 days. Talking point

JUST how far can Rangers go in the Uefa Cup with this kind of home form?