Rangers are through to the Europa League final in Seville after a stunning 3-1 win over RB Leipzig at an electric Ibrox tonight to seal a 3-2 win on aggregate.
After 18 games in the competition so far, the Light Blues now sit 90 minutes away from the second European trophy in the club’s history.
The Gers started the same XI that kicked off against Leipzig a week ago as Kemar Roofe failed in his bid to recover from injury in time to face the Germans – however, Aaron Ramsey was fit to take his place on the bench.
The noise inside Ibrox as the players went through their warm-ups was deafening and it somehow only got louder as kick-off approached.
By the time the sides emerged from the tunnel to get the game underway, the decibel level was up there with anything the old ground had ever heard as history beckoned.
After both sides spent the opening spells feeling each other out, it was Rangers who carved out the first real chance of the game when Ryan Jack’s half-volley from the edge of the area was saved well by Gulacsi.
The frantic start continued and it didn’t take long for the visitors to get their first proper sight of goal when Nkunku’s effort was deflected wide over the bar before Orban headed well wide from the resulting corner.
Neither side could take control of proceedings in the opening 15 minutes with slack passing and some nervy play gifting turnovers of possession as both tried to settle into the game.
Ryan Jack came to the rescue for Rangers when he slid to deny Leipzig after some nice play to flood forward by Laimer and Poulsen, Jack timing his tackle perfectly to block Poulsen’s effort as he tried to get a shot away.
Just as the game threatened to settle down into something a little calmer, all hell broke loose as James Tavernier scored to level the tie on aggregate and net his seventh of the season in the Europa League.
The skipper was left unmarked to drift in at the back post and knock home a tap-in from Ryan Kent’s cross and spark a simply outrageous noise as Ibrox erupted in celebration.
The opening 19 minutes had hardly been a classic but nobody inside Ibrox as another famous European night under the lights looked to be on the cards.
Five minutes later it was 2-0 and Ibrox was in absolute bedlam.
Glen Kamara rounded off a fantastic bit of pressing with a delightful finish into the bottom corner as Gulacsi could only scramble across goal; the Finn immediately pointed to the black armband the Light Blues were wearing in memory of Jimmy Bell.
The Light Blues had taken the game by the scruff of the neck and could have had a third before the half-hour when Aribo somehow managed to fluff his lines when it looked easier to score.
If the Nigerian had converted, that would probably been it for the tie.
The Light Blues found themselves under some pressure on 30 minutes – but it was the referee rather than Leipzig causing problems for the hosts when Connor Goldson picked up a comically bad yellow card, joining Calvin Bassey in the book and leaving Rangers with both central defenders walking a tightrope.
Rangers continued to push forward looking for a third goal to kill the tie off before the break, but the visitors were starting to find a little bit more success going forward themselves – although they done little to trouble Allan McGregor before half time.
Before the referee blew for the break, a third Rangers defender went into the book, Borna Barisic earning a yellow for a challenge on the edge of the area.
The resulting effort from Angelino was blocked by Joe Aribo but there was some concern for the Rangers star as he went straight down after taking the set play right in the side of the head, eventually getting back to his feet before being replaced by Sakala in the final seconds of the half.
The second 45 started a bit more of a measured pace as the visitors tried to find a way back into the game and create openings to work into.
Rangers’ press made life a misery for the Germans though as blue shirts seemingly appeared from out of nowhere to close off angles and make vital interceptions.
After coming on just before the break, Fashion Sakala almost made it two goals in his last two games when he flashed a header just wide of the post eight minutes after the restart.
Rangers’ injury woes came to the fore once again ten minutes into the second 45, Ryan Jack signalling to the bench that he was done as the Light Blues found themselves dropping deeper and deeper.
Despite seeing plenty of the ball after the restart, Leipzig were struggling to find a way through the massed ranks of blue shorts and threaten McGregor’s goal.
Van Bronckhorst would use the injury to Jack to make a double change, Scott Arfield and Leon Balogun coming on with Jack and the impressive Scott Wright coming off.
That forced a reshuffle for the Gers, Lundstram moving into midfield from the back three and Balogun slotting in to the defence as Rangers closed in on the Europa League final
The subs almost had an immediate impact as Arfield showed great tenacity to come away with the ball in the RBL area but the former Falkirk star couldn’t get his pass right as Sakala lingered at the back post.
Leipzig’s pressure eventually got the reward they were looking for when the Germans made it 2-1 on the night and levelled the tie on aggregate, Nkunku finishing really well from a deep cross to beat McGregor just minutes after the veteran had made a crucial save.
That would set the stage for a frantic final 20 minutes as both sides went looking for the next goal that would likely win the tie – and the noise levels inside Ibrox were cranked up once again.
Rangers would bounce back within ten minutes though, John Lundstram adding to his ever-growing status among the Ibrox support with a finish from close range.
It didn’t matter if it went in of his backside, the only thing that mattered was that it was in as the packed stand hailed the ‘best on Earth’
With two German teams now eliminated from the Europa League by van Bronckhorst’s side , Eintracht Frankfurt are now the final hurdle to Rangers’ Europa League success.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barisic, Lundstram, Jack, Kamara, Kent, Wright, Aribo
Subs: McCrorie, McLaughlin, Davis, Ramsey, Diallo, Sands, Balogun, Sakala, Arfield, King, Lowry
RB Leipzig: Gulacsi, Angelino, Orban, Poulsen, Klostermann, Nkunku, Olmo, Laimer, Gvardiol, Henrichs, Kampl
Subs: Tschauner, Martinez, Simakan, Forsberg, Szboszlai, Adams, Mukiele, Halstenberg, Silva, Raebiger, Novoa