Eintracht Frankfurt beat Rangers 5-4 on penalties on Wednesday in Seville to win the Europa League title and claim their first European trophy in 42 years.
Eintracht keeper Kevin Trapp saved Aaron Ramsey’s spot kick — Rangers’ fourth — while Eintracht were flawless in their execution, scoring all five. The game had finished 1-1 after 120 minutes of regular and extra time.
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“We played 13 matches in Europe and we did not lose a single one,” said Eintracht coach Oliver Glasner. “We took it step-by-step and at the end we were rewarded. I have no words to express what I feel for the players.
“It was the last game of the season, an intense one and everyone squeezed all they had out of them. A great compliment to the players.”
The result means Eintracht Frankfurt will return to the Champions League for the first time since 1960, when they reached the final and lost to Real Madrid in their only participation in Europe’s top club competition. The 62-year wait to return to the UCL is the longest by any team in the competition’s history.
Joe Aribo had struck against the run of play in the 57th minute to give Rangers the lead, charging clear after a string of defensive errors and sliding the ball past Trapp.
The Germans bounced back as Rafael Borre snuck in between two defenders to turn in a Filip Kostic cross in the 70th.
Glasner, in his first season at the club, said it was the team’s mentality that carried them through the difficult season. While Eintracht went unbeaten in the Europa League, even eliminating more fancied opponents such as Barcelona, they struggled in the Bundesliga where they finished 11th.
“We remained positive and it was only with that spirit that this was possible,” he said.
For Eintracht captain Sebastian Rode, it was a deserved finale at the end of a rocky ride.
“It was a very tough road and there was so much at stake for us tonight,” Rode said. “It is amazing what we did with this team and we deserved it. It was a great journey and we were rewarded.”
Rangers ended extra time the stronger side, but a brilliant save from Trapp ensured the game went to the shootout where the superb technique and mental strength of Frankfurt won it.
In intense heat and a stadium packed with Scots and Germans, Rangers received an early scare.
Eintracht’s Japanese winger Daichi Kamada weaved his way deep into the penalty area, but Rangers keeper Allan McGregor got down to foil him and was able to recover to deal with Djibril Sow’s effort from the loose ball.
McGregor was soon back in action, doing well to tip an Ansgar Knauff effort wide as the Germans enjoyed the better of the early exchanges.
Rangers were struggling to get a foothold in the game, but fired a warning when Aribo was given space to turn on the edge of the box and his shot curled just wide of the far post.
Frankfurt keeper Trapp was then brought into action to palm over a John Lundstram header as the Scottish side ended the half looking more confident.
Rangers started brightly after the break and could have taken the lead when James Tavernier led a swift break down the right and the ball fell to Ryan Kent at the back of the box, but his hurried shot was sliced well wide.
Minutes later though the Glasgow side grabbed the advantage — Brazilian defender Tuta slipped as he tried to reach a poor header back from Sow, leaving Aribo to go through and confidently slip the ball past Trapp.
Frankfurt responded with urgency and Kamada should have done better when he ran onto a flick over the top from Sebastian Rode but lifted the ball over the bar.
The leveler came when the dangerous Kostic was allowed to fire in a low cross from the left and Colombia international Borre reacted quickest, sneaking in front of Calvin Bassey to steer the ball home.
Rangers recovered from the blow and both sides sought to win the game inside the 90 minutes but neither could stop the encounter from entering extra time.
There was little between the teams in the opening period but after the change around, Borna Barisic fired a long-range effort straight at Trapp and then Ajdin Hrustic drilled a shot just wide for Eintracht.
It was Rangers who went closest to winning the contest though, in the final minutes, when substitute Kemar Roofe flashed a ball across the box to Kent whose low shot was superbly blocked by Trapp.
Trapp was alert again to keep out a free kick from Tavernier to ensure the final went to penalties.
The quality of the spot kicks was outstanding with just one player fluffing his lines as Ramsey’s soft effort was saved by Trapp after the first six shots had all found the net.
It came down to Borre to settle the contest and the Colombian, like all his teammates, kept his cool to set off the celebrations for the thousands of Germans in the stadium.
There was fan violence outside the stadium before the match, with supporters from both clubs throwing chairs and tables at each other. Five German fans were detained the night before after a confrontation with police. More than 150,000 fans came to the southern Spanish city, most of them without tickets for the final at the 43,000-capacity Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium.