Rangers scored more goals against Borussia Dortmund this year than they did during their entire UEFA Cup campaign in 2008, when they last reached a European final.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the Govan side’s route to reaching a Europa League final date with Eintracht Frankfurt, having fallen out of the Champions League qualifiers following defeat by Malmo.
Rangers 1 Alashkert 0
A first-leg Alfredo Morelos strike was enough to see Rangers into the group stages for the fourth consecutive season. The Colombian netted after John Lundstram’s first-half red card but missed a hat-trick of excellent chances in Armenia before Robby McCrorie kept a clean sheet on his first Rangers start. Manager Steven Gerrard missed the trip along with a number of players after Rangers reported positive Covid tests. Assistant Gary McAllister said: “I hold my hand up, it wasn’t pretty but we have had a difficult two or three days.”
Rangers fans were not looking ahead to Seville in May when their team opened the group with successive defeats against Lyon and Sparta Prague. But goals from Leon Balogun and Kemar Roofe earned a 2-0 win over Brondby to kick-start the campaign and Ianis Hagi netted a crucial equaliser in Denmark before Gerrard departed. There were early signs that Giovanni Van Bronckhorst had the Midas touch in Europe when he led his new team into the knockout stages with a 2-0 win over Sparta in his first match in charge. After a Morelos double, the Dutchman said: “It was truly really special and I enjoyed every moment of it.” Scott Wright netted in a 1-1 draw in Lyon as the top two rounded off their group campaigns.
Round of 32: Borussia Dortmund 4 Rangers 6
Gers fans enjoyed one of their greatest European trips as the tournament favourites were stunned in Germany. The visitors were three up inside 49 minutes thanks to James Tavernier’s penalty, a Morelos tap-in and Lundstram’s curler, and an own goal helped Rangers to a 4-2 win. Tavernier’s double saw Rangers through following a pulsating 2-2 draw at Ibrox. Van Bronckhorst said: “Of course if you can beat Dortmund away and you can have a good result at home it has to give you confidence.”
Round of 16: Rangers 4 Red Star Belgrade 2
The Light Blues sent out another statement with a 3-0 Ibrox win over the Serbian champions thanks to another Tavernier penalty plus goals from Morelos and Balogun. Red Star had three goals disallowed for offside, hit the bar and were thwarted by an Allan McGregor penalty save so the tie was far from over and the Gers goalkeeper needed to be at his best in Serbia. But Ryan Kent netted on the counter to make it 1-1 and a late penalty for the hosts proved irrelevant. Van Bronckhorst said: “The belief is only getting stronger. We take it round by round and there are some big names left in the draw.”
Quarter-final: Braga 2 Rangers 3
The Light Blues followed an Ibrox defeat against Celtic with a 1-0 setback in Portugal, but it could have been worse as Braga had a goal disallowed after a VAR check and hit the post. Rangers regained their form in time for the second leg and Tavernier hit a double and the visitors had a man sent off before the interval. David Carmo levelled the tie with an 83rd-minute header but Roofe struck in extra time and Braga finished with nine men with Scott Arfield able to forget two extraordinary late misses. Asked whether they could win the trophy, Van Bronckhorst said: “Well, we are getting closer. But I played in a World Cup final, played extra time in the World Cup final and lost it. In the end we had nothing. You have to push hard until you have the prize and that’s what we are going to do.”
Semi-final: RB Leipzig 2 Rangers 3
The semi-final followed exactly the same scoring pattern. Spanish full-back Angelino fired a late goal in Germany with Van Bronckhorst claiming McGregor was unsighted by an offside opponent. But Rangers again turned the game around on a memorable night at Ibrox. Tavernier hit another early goal, Glen Kamara swept home to put Rangers ahead, and Lundstram proved the late hero after Christopher Nkunku levelled the aggregate score. Rangers had been shocked by the death of long-serving kit man Jimmy Bell days earlier and won through on an emotional night. Van Bronckhorst said: “I played so many games here as a player and from last November as a manager but the atmosphere was incredible. That helped a lot.”