Rangers spark seismic shift as Gio van Bronckhorst jaw dropper decks Dortmund – Keith Jackson’s big match verdict


If they thought the first one was a fluke then Borussia Dortmund now know better. The whole of Europe does for that matter.

In fact, it could even be argued – and with some vindication – that the performance produced last night by Rangers was even more impressive than the stunning win in Germany that made this Europa League miracle possible in the first place.

That Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side were only denied a second magnificent victory over the Bundesliga big boys and tournament favorites by a dreadful miscarriage of VAR justice was a minor irritation on a night when a bouncing Ibrox felt like the center of football’s universe.

This time Dortmund gave them their best shot. And it still wasn’t good enough to derail a Rangers side that not only weathered the storm but hit back with two goals which did stand from skipper James Tavernier to crown a night of glory.

A significant victory too for van Bronckhorst, who made a major tactical tweak at half-time with this tie in the balance and watched his team dominate the second 45 minutes in a style every bit as jaw-dropping as last week’s first leg.

Van Bronckhorst’s first job of the night was also his easiest. He picked up last week’s teamsheet and handed it in again without making a single alteration on the basis that there was absolutely no need to change what had already broken Borussia down with such spectacular success.

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The hard work, however, was still to come against a German side who had spent the last week licking their wounds in between battering six league goals past Monchengladbach at the weekend as a rather ominous signal of malicious intent.

And it didn’t take long for the side in dayglo shirts to make clear that they meant business as they came flooding forward in a fluorescent yellow blur, even though it was Rangers who carved out the first big chance of the night.

If truth be told, Alfredo Morelos might have done a great deal better than head over from eight yards, having been perfectly picked out by Tavernier’s swinging free-kick.

Had he hit the back of the net, then it might have taken the sting out of this tie.

But the chance came and went in the blink of an eye and almost before Morelos had time to replay it in his head, the Germans were setting into their brisk, purposeful stride.

In four minutes Jude Bellingham bundled an effort on to the woodwork from close range after drifting in at Allan McGregor’s back post to connect with a corner and from that moment the warning lights were flashing.

It took some alert foraging from the likes of John Lundstram and Ryan Jack to stop them from claiming control of the middle of the pitch as Dortmund zipped the ball around.

And this resilience paid off in 20 minutes when Rangers broke upfield on a rare counter and Ryan Kent forced another major error out of Borussia’s brittle backline.

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The winger had been targeted for some heavy tackles but when he dropped a shoulder inside Dortmund’s box, he duped Julian Brandt into a clumsy tackle and was sent sprawling by the German’s boot.

Just as in the first leg, Tavernier stepped up and fired the spot-kick into the roof of Gregor Kobel’s net to spark scenes of pandemonium. But even this was not enough to dampen Dortmund’s enthusiasm. Rather, it made them double down.

In no time McGregor had to pull off a fine save to prevent Brandt from atoning for his blunder.

But the keeper could do nothing to stop the outstanding Bellingham from leveling on the half hour.

Connor Goldson made a mess of cutting out a through ball, succeeding only in sending it into the teenager’s path. Bellingham looked up to find himself one on one with McGregor and coolly slotted it home inside his left-hand post.

Ibrox took a collective deep breath but the action roared on.

Scott Arfield could have settled the nerves quickly but, after being played in by Joe Aribo, he smashed a shot at Kobel when he ought to have set up Kent for a tap-in. Morelos raced in for the rebound but his shot from him crashed into Mats Hummels on the line.

And then, four minutes before the break, the Germans took the lead when Bellingham popped up inside a packed box again, flicking the ball into striker Donyell Malen who reacted quickly to stab home beyond a flat-footed McGregor.

Van Bronckhorst replaced the injured Borna Barisic with Leon Balogun at the break, switching to a back five with Lundstram slotting in as a sweeper.

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And the rejig almost paid an instant dividend when Morelos latched on to a long ball out from the back, outmuscled Hummels and then dug out a shot that Kobel saved at his left-hand post.

From the corner, Jack blazed one over but suddenly – remarkably – Rangers were seizing control of this contest all over again. And in 56 minutes they were level on the night after a superb surging run from Calvin Bassey down the left undid the Dortmund defence.

The big man bulldozed his way through two challenges before whipping a cross into the six-yard box. Even though Morelos couldn’t connect, Tavernier came steaming in at the back post to bury the ball into the bottom of Kobel’s net.

The shift in momentum was bordering on seismic.

But just when it seemed Rangers had wrapped it all up with a third goal, VAR robbed them of the moment. There seemed nothing wrong with it at full speed when Morelos robbed Emre Can before racing clear to set up Kent with
to tap-in.

And, in truth, the replays were no more damning. But the Spanish officials saw something they did not like and the goal was wrongly disallowed.

That it didn’t even matter in the final analysis is testament to an outstanding Rangers display over two historic legs.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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