Rangers fans are united in grief after what could have been a fairytale Europa League victory turned to disaster after Eintracht Frankfurt surged ahead on penalties.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s boys were unable to push ahead with a goal in the second half of extra time after a tough and drawn-out 90 minutes ended in a 1-1 draw, followed by a chance-packed extra time period that nevertheless failed to eke out any further goals.
The noise from the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium was deafening as the winning penalty was scored – shattering the dreams of one team that had arrived with much hope in their hearts.
After an agonizing first half that saw neither side score, Rangers surged ahead with a goal in the 57th minute from English midfielder Joe Aribo.
However, Frankfurt fought back with an equalizer in the 69th minute from Colombian striker Rafael Borre.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to give the team the momentum to push on to their first European title in 50 years.
The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium lit up in the Frankfurt colors of white and red the moment the winning penalty was scored – with some Gers leaving moments before.
Fans were seen walking dejectedly from the stadium, some with tears in their eyes – the agony of a European title barely lost clear to see.
David Campbell, 28, from Bailleston, told our reporter: “We haven’t just beaten better teams on the way to Europe – we’ve beaten better German teams. So it was gutting to lose tonight.
“Tonight just didn’t go our way. I’m speechless.”
Conor Cartwright, who flew 30 hours from Darwin in Australia, believed the penalty shootout was a “roll of the dice, in the end”.
The 29-year-old said: “I’m burst. I thought it was going to be a straight win – the same as all the European games at Ibrox, when we thumped everyone.
“I knew it would be a difficult game because they’re less expansive than the other German teams but I thought we would still have the quality.
“It just didn’t happen.”
Kenny Park, 54, owner of the Bluebells Rangers pub in Lanzarote, said he was “gutted” to see the Light Blues lose at the bitter end.
“I don’t think we did enough to win the game,” he said.
“On balance Frankfurt were slightly more likely to win – we just didn’t do enough.
“We were in control in the second half and didn’t capitalize on it. I’m so gutted.
“It’s clearly a missed opportunity for us because we were at the top of our game for the rest of the time in Europe.
“We never brought that tonight.”
Dejected fans dragged themselves out of the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium after watching the Light Blues battle on in vain for 120 minutes and lose the penalty shootout.
Police maintained a protracted presence outside the stadium as fans left, with each side’s fans directed out separate exits and the streets connecting either side of the stadium cordoned off by officers in riot gear.
Gers fans had hoped the win would mark 150 years since the club’s founding and 50 years since their last European title in 1972.
The victory was also to be a tribute to club legend Walter Smith and hugely popular kitman Jimmy Bell.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.