Eintracht Frankfurt have won the Europa League on penalties 5-4 over Rangers in Seville after a heroic performance from the Light Blues.
After 120 minutes of football couldn’t separate the sides, Aaron Ramsey’s saved penalty was the difference as Frankfurt came out on top.
Van Bronckhorst named the same XI that started the semi-final second leg win over RB Leipzig with Joe Aribo leading the line – although the Light Blues were able to name Kemar Roofe among the substitutes.
The Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán was rocking long before the teams even came out to warm up, Rangers fans clearly outnumbering their German counterparts and turning a huge swathe of the stadium into a sea of blue.
A frantic opening few minutes saw Rangers have to cope with relentless pressure from the Germans as they looked to get an early opener and silence the thousands of Gers fans.
Once Rangers got a foot on the ball, they started to pose a threat of their own, almost carving a way through when Scott Wright turned brilliantly before slipping in Joe Aribo but the Nigerian couldn’t get a shot away.
Just five minutes in, there was a break in play when Rode took a sore one from Lundstram, ending up with a gashed forehead and needing lengthy treatment – Lundstram earning a talking to from the referee as Rode’s head was glued back together.
Once things finally got back underway, the Light Blues were quick to start putting Frankfurt’s defence under pressure as Connor Goldson sprayed diagonal balls forward looking for Ryan Kent.
The first scare for Rangers came through Kamada and Sow, the Japanese star running at the defence and causing problems before the ball fell for Sow to have an effort at goal that McGregor held comfortably.
There was very little between the two sides as the opening 20 minutes ticked by, although it was Frankfurt who had settled the better of the two.
McGregor had to make a big save from Knauff at his left-hand post, denying the Borussia Dortmund loanee at the cost of a corner as Frankfurt started going up through the gears.
It was as big a warning as Rangers could afford with a quarter of the game gone and some nerves began creeping into the Gers’ game with slack passes and individual errors threatening to derail their hopes of Europa League success.
Just before play was to stop for a water break, Aribo had Frankfurt keeper Trapp scrambling to cover his post as the Ibrox star tried to curl an effort in from the edge of the area but couldn’t quite get enough swerve on the ball.
Things slowly started to turn in Rangers’ favour as the game headed towards half-time, Ryan Jack forcing a corner on 35 minutes with some really good pressing forcing a mistake.
The improvement from the players was marked by an increase in the volume from the thousands of Rangers fans, Lundstram next to force a save from Trapp and win a corner.
Having survived the spell of Frankfurt pressure, Rangers were looking comfortable moving the ball around with the front three of Kent, Wright and Aribo finding themselves more involved in the game – Wright in particular really growing into an influential role in the final ten minutes of normal time in the opening 45.
Rangers’ control seemed to turn the white-clad Frankfurt fans, their incessant chants from earlier having turned into whistles as the Gers looked more and more threatening.
The lengthy stoppage for treatment to Rode early on saw six minutes of added time to end the first half – and Jack could only watch as a powerful drive went over Trapp’s bar in what was the last real chance of the half for Rangers.
Both bosses stuck by the XIs that started the game for the second half with Rangers getting the action underway as they shot towards the end of the ground holding the Light Blues’ support.
The Germans started the stronger after the break, winning a corner almost immediately and putting the Rangers defence on the back foot.
Frankfurt came within inches of breaking the deadlock three minutes after the restart, Lindstrom’s effort deflecting just wide of McGregor’s goal with the veteran keeper rooted to the spot.
Rangers were restricted to trying to play long balls forward but little was coming off when VAR had a look at a potential penalty claim when Borre went down under a challenge from Goldson; nothing coming of it after minimal contact.
The best opening of the game for Rangers up to that point came in 55 minutes, Tavernier’s ball across goal eventually falling for Kent but the wideman slashed at the ball and sliced his effort wide when he should have at least made the keeper work.
Just as Rangers’ chance looked to have gone, Joe Aribo caused sheer bedlam when he slotted home to give the Light Blues a 1-0 lead after a slip by Tuta on 57 minutes.
The makeshift striker showed incredible composure to stride forward before slotting the ball low into the bottom of the net to end Rangers’ 50-year wait for a goal in a European final.
Frankfurt were looking for an instant response; Lindstrøm blasting a shot towards goal, but Bassey blocked it superbly in front of goal, getting his hands out of the way and clearing with his chest.
After that chance was denied, the Germans lost the run of themselves briefly; giving the ball away, losing runners and making really poor decisions when put under pressure.
However, Kamada was quick to remind the Light Blues that Frankfurt weren’t finished yet, watching as his effort went narrowly over the bar and settled on the roof of the net.
They drilled that point home on the 69th minute when Borre equalised, sneaking in between Goldson and Bassey to poke the ball beyond the helpless McGregor and set up a breathless final 20 minutes.
Goldson should have done better, getting caught out and losing his man to allow the Colombian the chance to equalise.
A water break right after the goal gave van Bronckhorst a chance to speak to his players and calm them down for the closing part of the game.
A double change would see Ryan Jack and Scott Wright make way for Steven Davis and Scott Wright with 16 minutes to go as van Bronckhorst looked to a bit more of a direct threat in attack.
There was again little to separate the sides going into the final minutes of the 90, the second period taking on a similar pattern as the first with Rangers growing into the game as the game ticked away.
It was clear though that Frankfurt felt they could get a winner in normal time, committing men forward and leaving themselves a bit exposed at the back but Rangers were unable to take advantage.
With seconds left in normal time, Kostic fizzed an effort across goal that had McGregor at full-stretch as it went just wide of his far post.
After the fourth official indicated five minutes of injury time, there was one last push from both sides to settle it before extra-time but neither could break the deadlock and on to another 30 minutes we went.
Extra-time saw another change for Rangers, Scott Arfield coming on for Glen Kamara to offer some more energy from midfield while also giving van Bronckhorst’s side an extra goal threat.
The former Canada international almost made an immediate impact, firing just over the bar from the edge of the area a few minutes after the restart.
There was a narrow escape for Calvin Bassey after an exemplary 90 minutes, making a mess of a passback before eventually recovering brilliantly to deny Borre.
A fourth change for the Light Blues saw the introduction of James Sands shortly before half-time in extra time, the American replacing Aribo and Arfield moving into the space left by the goalscorer and Sands dropping into defence.
By the time the game reached the second half of extra-time, both sides had given everything and it was showing with some leggy players.
With the second period of ET just underway, Barisic almost caught Trapp out with a strike that moved wickedly in the air as the German keeper steadied himself to make the save.
There was an ever-growing sense the game was destined for penalties, as both sides failed to test the other’s keeper with enough regularity.
It wasn’t just the players that were flagging, both sets of fans feeling the effects of the incredibly tense game on the pitch in front of them.
Borna Barisic’s night came to an end with five minutes remaining, Kemar Roofe coming on to replace the Croatian international with penalties edging ever closer – Aaron Ramsey also coming on to replace Sakala.
Moments after the changes, Roofe almost had a huge impact, his cross to Kent bringing an excellent save from Trapp before Davis’ effort from the rebound whistled over the bar.
30 seconds before the end of extra-time, Rangers were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area, but the skipper’s fine effort didn’t have quite enough pace to beat Trapp and then it was penalties.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barisic, Lundstram, Jack, Kamara, Wright, Kent, Aribo
Substitutes: McLaughlin, McCrorie, Diallo, Davis, Ramsey, Sands, Roofe, Balogun, Sakala, Arfield, King, Lowry
Frankfurt: Trapp, Ndicka, Sow, Kostic, Kamada, Rode, Toure, Borre, Lindstrom, Tuta, Knauff.
Subs: Grahl, Jakic, Hrustic, Lammers, Hasebe, Sandler, Ache, Hauge, Da Costa, Lenz, Barkok, Paciencia