By Shantanu Gupta
Rangers were beaten by Eintracht Frankfurt in the final of the Europa League in Seville on Wednesday night.
42,500 fans in the stadium and more than 100,000 fans in the city who could not get tickets for the game but were watching the match in fan parks dotted across the city, made for a raucous atmosphere from the first whistle to the last.
The Germans were the better team in the first half, and in left wing back Filip Kostić they had the most dangerous player on the pitch with his ability to get up and down the touchline and deliver teasing crosses into the box.
It was Eintracht who came closer to breaking the deadlock when Allan McGregor was forced to make an excellent save from Ansgar Knauff. Rangers had their moments but nothing seriously to trouble Kevin Trapp in the Frankfurt goal.
And it was also the Bundesliga side that started the second half much brighter, emerging with an intensity that had the Scottish team on the ropes.
But then, against the run of play, Rangers took the lead, although Frankfurt were very much the masters of their own downfall. Midfielder Djibril Sow and defender Tuta failed to deal with a bouncing ball, Tuta fell over, allowing Joe Aribo to stride forward and calmly slot the ball past Trapp.
The lead lasted 12 minutes, during which time Rangers twice survived penalty shouts against them. VAR ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to overturn the referee’s initial decision not to award a spot-kick.
When the equaliser did come, it was no surprise that the source of the goal was Kostić. He burst down the left and delivered a low cross to the near post.
Both the Rangers centre-halves were ball watching and failed to spot the run of Rafael Borré who stole in between them, and beat McGregor from close range.
Both teams pressed for a second goal, but it would not come and the match went to extra time. With players tiring in the heat – it had been 30 degrees at kick-off and not appreciably cooler later, – mistakes began to creep in on both sides, but still the game remained tied.
Still, with penalties looming, Rangers had the chance to snatch the win. Substitute Kemar Roofe, who had just come on as a substitute, got to the bye-line and pulled the ball back for Ryan Kent to side-foot the ball from close range.
Fortunately for the Germans, Trapp was able to move his feet in time, stuck out a right leg, and managed to divert the shot away from goal.
That meant that, for the second time in a matter of days, penalties were needed to decide a major final. The three spot kicks from each side were so accurately placed that neither keeper stood a chance.
However, Welsh international Aaron Ramsey, who had been introduced very late on specifically to take a spot kick, placed his effort down the middle and Trapp was able to keep it out. It was left to Borré to deliver the coup de grace, sending the Germans into raptures of delight, whilst the Rangers players slumped to the turf in dejection.
They need to pick themselves up to the Scottish Cup Final against Hearts in nine days’ time, whilst Eintracht Frankfurt can look forward to playing in the Champions League next season.