Rangers penned another chapter of success in the club’s history as they reached the Europa League with a helter-skelter 3-1 victory at home to RB Leipzig on Thursday night.
Played to the backdrop of an Ibrox that was thundering from the first whistle, James Tavernier sparked an eruption as he tapped in an 18th-minute opener, nudging Rangers ahead on the night and wiping out RB Leipzig’s first-leg lead.
Ryan Kent rolled the ball across goal for Tavernier to sneak in unmarked after Glen Kamara pivoted away from Kevin Kampl in midfield. The Finland international swiftly followed up his cameo role in the first goal with an effortless stroke into the bottom corner to put Rangers ahead on aggregate, crisply finishing off a slick passing sequence which began with a high press that was indicative of their front-foot approach all over the pitch.
Joe Aribo almost trebled the hosts’ advantage inside half an hour. As Tavernier nodded down Borna Barisic’s cross at the back post, the makeshift forward swiped at the ball within the six-yard box but barely connected with his weaker right foot.
While the crowd scarcely let up, the players in blue eased off the throttle after the interval, increasingly ceding possession to Leipzig while shifting into a 5-4-1 off the ball.
Rather than frustrating the visitors, Rangers’ passivity and porous shape gave Leipzig ample opportunity to pick out passes in the abundant space between the lines.
Seconds after Konrad Laimer was denied by Allan McGregor, Leipzig levelled the tie in the 71th-minute as Christopher Nkunku silkily volleyed in Angelino’s cross.
Rangers somehow hauled themselves off the canvas within the space of ten minutes. At the second phase of a set-piece, Kent was again at the heart of the Gers’ threat, tossing in a high ball which Josko Gvardiol shakily nodded into the six-yard box, sitting up for John Lundstram to stride forward and slot his side back ahead.
Inspired by the surprise passing of the club’s long-serving and much-loved kit man Jimmy Bell, Rangers held on to reach their first European final since 2008.
GK: Allan McGregor – 7/10 – Not given a great deal to do but produced a superb one-v-one stop to deny Laimer, preserving his side’s advantage at the time.
CB: John Lundstram – 7/10 – Surprisingly starting on the right-hand side of Rangers’ back-three, Lundstram was not alone in leaping forward to close down the recipient of a pass.
CB: Connor Goldson – 7/10 – Anchoring the backline, Goldson constantly looked for a forward pass, more often than not finding a teammate with a punched effort.
CB: Calvin Bassey – 8/10 – Uber-aggressive as ever, Bassey closed down Dani Olmo’s first touch.
RWB: James Tavernier – 7/10 – Forever lurking in space at the back post, Tavernier was in the right place at the right time to wreak havoc, becoming the competition’s top scorer this season.
CM: Ryan Jack – 6/10 – Often left as the sole blue shirt in midfield, Jack didn’t have it all his own way but certainly didn’t shirk the mountainous task he was lumbered with.
CM: Glen Kamara – 8/10 – Pushing much further forward than his nominal midfield partner in possession, Kamara emphatically demonstrated the impact he can have in these advanced positions.
LWB: Borna Barisic – 6/10 – Tentatively treaded forward but rash when forced to face his own goal.
RW: Scott Wright – 7/10 – Coolly laid the ball off for Kamara in a performance peppered with positive taps and touches.
ST: Joe Aribo – 7/10 – Showed some flashes of strength and silk to hold the ball up but missed an absolutely golden chance before a blow to the head forced him off on the cusp of half-time.
LW: Ryan Kent – 7/10 – Once again emerged as Rangers’ provider, putting Tavernier’s opener on a plate for his skipper.
SUB: Fashion Sakala (45+3′ for Aribo) – 5/10 – Let a searching cross from Kent brush off his eyebrows and wide of the far post as he scampered and scurried with more energy than direction.
SUB: Scott Arfield (59′ for Wright) – 5/10 – Aside from a sombrero on the byline, Arfield was limited to defensive duties.
SUB: Leon Balogun (59′ for Jack) – 4/10 – Shifting Lundstram into midfield as he slotted into the backline, Balogun’s introduction seemed to unsettle Rangers as he groggily struggled to match the game’s tempo.
GK: Peter Gulasci – 5/10 – Unable to do anything about any of Rangers’ clinical finishes.
CB: Lukas Klostermann – 5/10 – Weak even when outnumbering Kamara in the build-up for Rangers’ opener.
CB: Willi Orban – 6/10 – Dragged around the pitch in a bid to constantly snuff out danger, Orban’s authority grew as the game wore on and he picked his moments to intervene more precisely.
CB: Josko Gvardiol – 4/10 – Caused all sorts of problems by the crisp combination play of Tavernier and Wright.
RWB: Benjamin Henrichs – 5/10 – Not nearly as pinned back as Leipzig’s opposite wingback.
CM: Konrad Laimer – 7/10 – Bursting behind Rangers’ backline and driving forward in possession, Laimer provided thrust with and without the ball.
CM: Kevin Kampl – 4/10 – Eager to sneak his toe to the ball but often misjudged his attempts to pinch possession – chief among these errors led to the opening goal.
LWB: Angelino – 5/10 – Tavernier’s tap in to begin proceedings was not the only time Angelino let the ball reach the competition’s top scorer at the back post. Produced a brilliant arcing ball to tee up Leipzig’s way back into the game.
RW: Dani Olmo – 4/10 – Desperately struggled to simply turn towards goal with the ball at his feet. On the one occasion he managed to evade Lundstram, Olmo was so surprised he fluffed his subsequent pass.
ST: Yussuf Poulsen – 5/10 – Proved a nuisance with his physicality but laboured when presented with a sight of goal that swiftly closed during the age in which Poulsen lined up his shot while the game was goalless.
LW: Christopher Nkunku – 6/10 – Skirted around the fringes of the tie for the first half before gradually easing into the frame after moving into a central position and ushering the ball into the top corner.
SUB: Dominik Szoboszlai (62′ for Olmo) – 5/10
SUB: Andre Silva (82′ for Poulsen) – N/A
SUB: Marcel Halstenberg (82′ for Angelino) – N/A