SEVILLE: Eintracht Frankfurt won the Europa League final after holding their nerve to beat Rangers 5-4 in a clinical penalty shootout as they claimed their first European trophy in 42 years.
Kevin Trapp saved Aaron Ramsey’s spot kick — Rangers’ fourth — before Rafael Borre struck the winning shot as Eintracht were flawless in their execution, scoring all five after the game had finished 1-1 after 120 minutes.
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, unbeaten in the competition going into the final and eyeing their first European title since 1980, bounced back as Borre snuck in between two defenders to turn in a Filip Kostic cross in the 70th.
“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.
“We will celebrate for the next few days now ,” added the Austrian, whose side will now compete in next season’s Champions League despite finishing in 11th place in the Bundesliga.
Eintracht are the first Bundesliga team to win the Europa League, or its predecessor the UEFA Cup, since 1997, when Schalke beat Inter Milan on penalties.
“I dreamed of tonight, of a historic night for the club, a historic night for me,” said Borre, the Colombian. “It’s my first European title. I will keep this memory forever.”
Both clubs were looking to win a second European title in their history, Rangers after clinching the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972 and Frankfurt after they lifted the UEFA Cup 42 years ago.
But Rangers came up just short at the end of an incredible run to the final. Only 10 years ago this week, Rangers fell into administration before being liquidated and relegated to Scotland’s bottom tier.
Frankfurt had already beaten Real Betis, Barcelona and West Ham United en route to the final and they were probably deserving winners, shading a compelling contest that always seemed to lack real technical quality.
Rangers had ended extra time the stronger side, but two brilliant saves from man-of-the-match Trapp ensured the game went to the shootout where the superb technique and mental strength of the Germans won it.
“We are all heroes. Without the fans we wouldn’t have made it,” said Trapp.
The consequence of the defeat was not lost on Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Victory would have brought not only silverware for the Scottish side but also an automatic place in the lucrative group stage of next season’s Champions League.
Instead Rangers must fight their way through the third qualifying round and then the play-off round in order to join rivals and Scottish champions Celtic in the group stage.
Former Barcelona and Netherlands full-back Van Bronckhorst said Rangers had shown that they had the quality to play at the elite European level.
“We showed it today but next season we have to start all over again,” he said. “No, it’s not certain we will be on this level. We’re going to work hard and make sure we develop as a team. And we want to be on the stage and so you know next year we have to do it again. And we start from zero and we’ll work hard to get silverware next season.”
Van Bronckhorst defended Ramsey, saying the midfielder had shown courage in putting his hand up to take a penalty after having been brought on in the 117th minute.
“He is very down,” Van Bronckhorst told reporters. “It’s never nice to lose. Everyone is hurt and disappointed. You can sense that in the locker room. That’s normal so shortly after the game.
“Aaron was disappointed but he took responsibility to take the penalty and you can make it or miss it. Unfortunately he didn’t make it but you want to have players who are comfortable taking penalties.
“It’s a big disappointment. If you play a final in Europe and you lose it will hurt. You do everything you can to win it and with penalties, it’s a lottery.
“When you lose, they will hurt a lot. I lost a World Cup final, the biggest game there is. We have to move on.”
Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2022