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Rangers reach the Europa League final

The Gers beat RB Leipzig 3-1 at a pulsating Ibrox to overcome a 1-0 first-leg deficit

Credit: Luke Nickerson/Rangers FC/Shutterstock

Ibrox showed its power as Rangers continue to belie a thoroughly mixed domestic campaign with a barn-storming run to their first European final since 2008 and in doing so, concluding a week that has been a great advert for European football as a whole.

The team that drew with Ross County, Motherwell, and Dundee and looks far off the pace of Celtic in the league is the same team that has scored four goals away from home against Borussia Dortmund and come back from 1-0 down in consecutive knockout ties, first against Braga and now against Leipzig thanks to James Tavernier, Glen Kamara and John Lundstram. This Leipzig side has beaten Manchester City and drawn with PSG in the Champions League this season before dropping to the Europa League. They then beat Real Sociedad 5-3 on aggregate before being given a bye against Spartak Moscow due to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent banning of all Russian clubs from European competition, and finally beat Atalanta to reach the semi-finals.

This was no smash-and-grab heist either: despite conceding possession and a greater number of shots throughout the game, Rangers actually outperformed Leipzig on expected goals (2.01 to 1.42) and expected goals on target (2.28 to 1.48).

Their record against German opposition will give further encouragement that Rangers could win their first European trophy since the 1972 Cup Winners’ Cup as they will face Eintracht Frankfurt, who beat West Ham United 3-1 on aggregate and sit in eleventh place in the Bundesliga. It will be Frankfurt’s first European final since 1980, and they have certainly not done it the easy way, also delivering a rude awakening to a semi-resurgent Barcelona on the way to Seville.

In getting their sides to this stage, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst and Oliver Glasner have done remarkable jobs in their first seasons at their respective clubs and will be worth keeping an eye on for bigger and better jobs down the line (with all due respect to Rangers and Frankfurt).

The final in Seville will be the culmination of a Europa League campaign that has been the flip-side of the coin from its big brother, the Champions League. While this competition has been bereft of truly great football teams, it has been fantastic fun watching as favourite after favourite was anointed and then unceremoniously dumped out, a fate which has befallen Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Barcelona, Atalanta, Sevilla, and now Leipzig and West Ham.

The Champions League, on the other hand, has delivered classic match after classic match, the greatest being the most recent: Real Madrid’s latest remarkable recovery, this time against Manchester City, leaves us with a titanic rematch against Liverpool. There is no greater summation of the difference between the two competitions than the fact that Los Blancos and the Reds hold between them 19 European Cups, with the most recent for both coming within the last five seasons, while Rangers and Frankfurt have one apiece, both dating back to before the invention of the McNugget and the Compact Disc (remember those?).

Credit: Bernat Armangué

Perhaps that’s the point. Yes, the Champions League is predictable, but it’s also the highest quality of football available on the planet. Yes, the Europa League is a bit dodgy sometimes, but you get some great upsets as a result. You get the best of both worlds with these competitions in their current form, and it’s a shame that UEFA and the biggest clubs don’t seem to understand this. Only time will tell if it backfires on them.

Oh, and Roma will be playing Feyenoord in the final of the Europa Conference League, if anyone cares about that. Tammy Abraham scored again. Sorry, Chelsea fans.

Credit: Sky Sports


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