A chance like this comes around every now and then, but not frequently enough in these parts.
Rangers came within 90 minutes of a Europa League final in Seville yesterday night in Leipzig, without accomplishing anything spectacular, with the kind of disciplined, relentlessly defensive performance that may have brought a smile to the face of the last man to bring them this far on livescore soccer scores.
Yes, five minutes from time, RB Leipzig finally came through to take a one-goal advantage into the second leg next week.
Before a ball was kicked in Germany, Walter Smith would have signed for a 1-0 defeat. And Giovanni van Bronckhorst didn’t need a dark blue cardigan to pay homage to the great man on a night when his team did everything they could to stay in the hunt for another UEFA title, 14 years after their last appearance.
With their top scorer and his most capable understudy in the hospital, logic indicates that this last-four tie was surely meant to be as high as Rangers could expect to rise in European football’s rarefied environment.
After all, how can they expect to continue breaking glass ceilings in this competition if they don’t even have a Roofe?
It was left to van Bronckhorst to devise a tactical strategy capable of counteracting his own string of ill luck.
He resisted the obvious urge to use Fashion Sakala as a stand-in for those he had to leave behind, as he had expected.
Rather than asking the Zambian livescore tennis to take on responsibilities that were previously above his ability level, van Bronckhorst chose to rip up his own Rangers model and come up with something altogether different on a need-must basis.
The concept of a false nine might be more commonly associated with almond milk lattes and bushy beards, but here was the Rangers manager throwing it out like a gigantic dice in real life and on the greatest stage possible.
With Sakala and the rest of the reinforcements on the bench, Joe Aribo was dragged out of his comfort zone and asked to play every hipster’s favorite role.
The Ibrox manager was counting on Aribo’s physicality and wizardly close control to assist the Nigerian operate as the attack’s central focal point, while Ryan Kent and Scott Wright applied the jet burners down both sides.
Wright’s two goals against Motherwell on Saturday definitely shifted the scales in his favor at just the right time. And yet, this was a million miles away from a weekender in Lanarkshire’s deepest, darkest depths.
This was a front-row seat to what felt like the epicenter of football’s universe. When the Rangers are in town on Thursday evenings, it always does.
And yet, on this roller coaster ride to the last four, this was unlike anything that had come before.
Yes, Aribo was the team’s most advanced midfielder, but it didn’t mean anything.
During a first 45 minutes that seemed to perplex and frustrate the Germans in equal measure, he barely made it over the halfway line.
When Aribo hammered on Leipzig’s door for the first time, the defense began to crumble, and Kent had a chance to put Rangers ahead when he flashed a shot over the face of goal.
But that was the closest van Bronckhorst’s team got on a night that was defined by what they did at the other end of the field.
Yes, Angelino’s spectacular volley five minutes from time indicates that there is still some attacking work to be done at Ibrox next week.
Van Bronckhorst, on the other hand, should have at least one of his strikers back in contention for a starting spot by then.
He might remember this as the night when he completed the most difficult tasks.
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