Eintracht Frankfurt 1 Rangers 1 (AET, Eintracht Frankfurt win 5-4 on penalties)
Rafael Borré stood alone in front of a sea of blue. All that and it came to this. One shot to secure Eintracht Frankfurt’s first European trophy in 42 years. The forward ran up and struck the ball into the net, beyond Allan McGregor, to win a dramatic penalty shootout and send the supporters in white at the other end of the ground wild.
Rangers’ fans meanwhile, fell silent for the first time: 50 years they had waited for a European trophy; who knows how much longer they will have to wait for another chance.
A 1-1 draw, a glorious 118th-minute chance, saved by Kevin Trapp, and it had gone to penalties. Aaron Ramsey had been sent on to take one, only to watch it saved by the Eintracht keeper. It had been a crazy ride, and now it was over in the cruellest way. So close, but defeated at the last. A long, hot, wild evening finally turning away from them.
This was loud. It was lively, too. An early cut inflicted upon Sebastian Rode – which saw his bloodied shirt replaced, his head wrapped in a blue bandage and caused everyone to stop for five long minutes almost as soon as they had started – did not succeed in slowing this down.
And if lovely moments of footwork from James Tavernier at one end and Jesper Lindstrøm at the other didn’t yield early shots on goal, strikes followed relatively swiftly. For Eintracht, at least, a side at their best when they are up and running.
An Almamy Touré pass over the top of the Rangers defence found Daichi Kamada for the first of them. Close to the six-yard box, the forward took a touch too many, the space closing before him until he was eventually stopped by McGregor. The goalkeeper was up quickly enough to gather Djibril Sow’s follow-up from the edge of the area.
McGregor was there again to push away when Ansgar Knauff was allowed to run all the way through, then Lindstrøm’s volley was blocked and Sow bent a shot past the post.
There was a response from Rangers, Aribo’s sweet shot just escaping the post, but the momentum was mostly heading the other way. The battle for the wing announced between Tavernier and Filip Kostic was enjoyable but for the moment it was being won by the Serbia international, a muscular, dynamic and very direct presence.
A recurring one, too. He struck a clever shot on to the roof of the net from 20 yards before half an hour and then, just after it, went flying up the wing, no one able to catch him.
The only problem was that included Kostic’s teammates and, having begun the run from just outside his own area, by the time he reached the other area without any passes to play, he was slowing and pulled his shot past the post. Eintracht’s shot count was in double figures now; Rangers had taken just that one.
And yet, with Scott Wright starting to get a little bit more of the ball, there was a reaction. John Lundstram’s header was tipped over by Kevin Trapp, and Rangers were starting to have their moments, Ryan Jack striking over from a promising position just before half-time.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team were out early for the second half, into the smoke from the flares in the Eintracht end, where the first shot – from Tuta – fizzed wide. So too did Lindstrøm’s deflected effort.
Rangers, like Eintracht, appeared more dangerous racing from deep than building from there. They needed a way to accelerate and find the spaces into which to run, to press Eintracht into positions from which they struggle to find a way out. When one dash saw Eintracht make a mess of clearing, suddenly an opportunity opened up if more by accident than design, Aribo slipping the ball to Ryan Kent. His shot sliced wide.
Sea of blue
There would be no mistake next time, just a minute later. A goal-kick from Trapp and a simple header clear from Connor Goldson did the damage. Sow misjudged it, sending the ball back towards his own goal. Tuta slipped and suddenly Aribo was away, heading towards that sea of blue, which erupted as he slotted beyond Trapp.
For a moment, Eintracht seemed to find it hard to comprehend what had happened. But they knew they had to take a step forward now; they also knew Rangers were more likely to take a step back. A superb recovery from Calvin Bassey prevented Knauff from getting away.
Then Kamada, alone in the area, lifted his shot over McGregor and on to the roof of the net, fists beating at the turf in frustration. However Eintracht did level when Kostic’s cross passed by four men in blue, Goldson the last one to see it go, just as Barré nipped in front of him at the near post to turn it into the net.
Eintracht pressed, McGregor pushing away and Kostic flashing just wide, but it was Rangers who almost avoided extra time when Glen Kamara’s 95th-minute attempt was blocked. On it went, Scott Arfield hitting over.
Bassey would then have gifted Eintracht a wonderful chance but for the fact that few recover like he does and so, having missed the ball and twisted himself into knots, he unravelled again and chased down Borré inside the area. He then matched Knauff, forcing his opponent into a hurried shot.
The legs were heavy, the efforts tired but not spared, even if the fear of defeat weighed as heavy as the determination to win and the errors were accumulating, shots often taken too early. Davis had one blocked and then Borna Barisic stung Trapp’s palms, beyond 105 minutes now. Ajdin Hrustic pulled wide.
Kristijan Jakic swung over the bar, head turned to the sky. Thoughts turned to the shootout. An astonishing save by Trapp, denying Kent from just five yards out ensured they got there, giving him another moment to be a hero. - Guardian