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Rangers suffered Europa League heartbreak on Wednesday night as Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side lost 5-4 to Eintracht Frankfurt on penalties in the competition's final.
Over 100,000 Gers fans descended on Seville to cheer on their side who were competing in a European showpiece for the first time in 14 years. However, the Bears' Europa League adventure was ended at the final hurdle as a penalty shootout triumph saw Frankfurt claim the title and secure their spot in next season's Champions League.
Joe Aribo gave the Gers a stunning second-half lead after capitalising on Tuta's unfortunate slip before Rafael Borre levelled for Frankfurt to send the final into extra-time. With neither side able to find a winner, penalties were required and Aaron Ramsey's miss provided a heartbreaking end to Rangers' remarkable Europa League run.
Having overcome the odds to topple the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Crvena zvezda, Braga and RB Leipzig on an astonishing run to the final, Rangers were full of confidence heading into the clash, but survived an early scare. Just six minutes into the contest, semi-final hero John Lundstrum escaped unpunished after his high boot on Frankfurt skipper Sebastian Rode could easily have seen red.
In a fairly cagey first-half, it was Frankfurt who had the better of the early chances. Gers' stopper Allan McGregor tipped Ansgar Knauff's left-footed strike around the post before Evan N'Dicka guided a header just wide from the subsequent corner.
Aribo curled one just wide from the edge of the area with 26 minutes on the clock as Van Bronckhorst's side began to assert themselves on the final in a raucous Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium. Filip Kostic then dragged an effort wide before Lundstrum's looping header forced Frankfurt's Kevin Trapp into action.
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The Eagles ramped up the pressure early in the second half and the Scots were relieved to see Jesper Lindstrom's long-range effort deflect narrowly wide of McGregor's goal. Moments after Ryan Kent slashed wide, Aribo then pounced on Tuta's slip to slot home just over 10 minutes into the second half to break the deadlock and send the Gers travelling supporters into raptures.
Daichi Kamada then saw his lob excrutiatingly land on the roof of the Rangers net, before Frankfurt's pressure finally told. Rafael Borre met Kostic's low whipped cross to poke home the equaliser as the Gers defence were caught napping.
As the match headed into extra-time, Knauff and substitute Ajdin Hrustic put efforts wide, while Kent and Steven Davis squandered glorious chances to win the match at the death. In the end, penalties were required to separate the two sides and it was Aaron Ramsey's miss which proved decisive.
Despite defeat, this Europa League campaign will be one to remember for the Scottish side. In reaching the final, the Gers made history by becoming the first team to recover from defeats in their opening two matches – against Lyon and Sparta Prague – to then go on and reach the final.
However, Frankfurt would prove to be one match too far. The Bundesliga outfit capped out an astonishing European adventure of their own, which included wins against Real Betis, Barcelona and West Ham, by lifting the Europa League title – their first continental prize since 1980.
In winning the trophy, not only will Frankfurt now take on either Liverpool our Real Madrid in the European Super Cup on Wednesday 10 August, but the Eagles have also secured their spot in next season's Champions League.
- Rangers FC
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