Friday, September 30, 2022

Rangers 3 – 1 Braga

Kemar Roofe’s extra-time tap-in sent Rangers into the Europa League semi-finals with a 3-1 win (3-2 agg) over a brave Braga side, who finished the match with nine men on a dramatic night at Ibrox.

Giovanni van Bronkhorst’s team were second best in the first leg last week but scrubbed out their deficit after just 69 seconds on Thursday when James Tavernier slid home a shot at the back post from Joe Aribo’s brilliant flick for a dream start.

Roofe thought he’d got a second inside five minutes but VAR spotted a handball in the build-up and the striker then somehow hit the bar from two yards out on 32 minutes as Rangers looked to ram home their dominance.

They did just that when Vitor Tormena was sent off for bringing down Roofe in the box moments before half-time, allowing Tavernier to slam in his second from the spot to give Rangers the lead in the tie and control of the match.

However, while Roofe saw another effort ruled out in the second half – this time for offside – and Aaron Ramsey had the ball in the Braga net for a fifth time when he was whistled for bundling into keeper Matheus, Rangers couldn’t find a third .

They were made to pay for that wastefulness on 82 minutes when, out of nowhere, Braga struck back through a towering David Carmo header from the visitors’ first corner of the match.

Europa League semi-final draw

  • RB Leipzig v Rangers
  • West Ham v Eintracht Frankfurt

The tension was palpable around Ibrox going into the additional time but with 101 minutes on the clock Roofe’s persistence paid off when he was ideally placed to finish off Aribo’s low cross through the six-yard box.

There were more fireworks to come, with Iuri Medeiros shown two yellows in quick succession for a late tackle and then dissent before Scott Arfield smashed against the bar, but the final whistle drew ecstatic celebrations from the home side and their supporters, with Rangers heading for their first European semi-final since they finished UEFA Cup runners-up in 2008.

team news

John Lundstrum was fit to start after going off injured against St Mirren but with Filip Helander out for the rest of the season Calvin Bassey took his spot at centre-back, as one of two changes.

Ryan Jack returned in midfield, with Fashion Sakala dropping to the bench. Aaron Ramsey made his first European start for Rangers.

Rangers – who must quickly turn their attentions to a Scottish Cup semi-final with Celtic on Sunday – will face RB Leipzig in the Europa League final four, after the German side won 2-0 at Atalanta to secure a 3-1 aggregate victory. The first leg will be away on 23 April, with the second leg at Ibrox on 5 May.

If they can produce a performance similar to this one, they’ll have hope. Rangers were transformed from the side which failed to have a single shot on target in the first meeting between these sides and Ibrox erupted when Tavernier profited from Aribo’s assist inside two minutes.

Rangers’ James Tavernier celebrates after scoring against Braga

Those home supporters were in dreamland when Roofe headed in just moments later from another fine Borna Barisic cross – but VAR cut short their celebrations because the ball had brushed the full-back’s hand during the move.

Kemar Roofe had an early header ruled out by VAR
Kemar Roofe had an early header ruled out by VAR

More chances for Tavernier and Roofe followed before Aribo’s shot was blocked and Ryan Kent fired wide. Then came a shocking miss from Roofe, who smashed against the woodwork when he looked certain to score.

Roofe had hit a hat-trick at the weekend against St Mirren and could have had one in the first-half against Braga. He’d go on to see another effort chalked off in the second half, too, when an offside flag canceled out his cute lob from another Aribo flick.

However, Rangers were in complete control at the break, with Tormena seeing red just before half-time and Tavernier making no mistake from 12 yards to score his second of the game.

Braga hold the record for progressing from European ties after winning the first leg (10 times) and that never looked likely at that point. They had only managed one shot in the first half with eleven men and posed little threat for much of the second with 10.

Vitor Tormena was sent off for bringing down Kemar Roofe
Vitor Tormena was sent off for bringing down Kemar Roofe – the first of two red cards for Braga

Aribo shot wide, Roofe saw a goal-bound header nodded away by Paulo Oliveira and Aaron Ramsey sent an effort over as Rangers kept the pressure on.

The Welshman was then rightly whistled for a crowd when he collided with keeper Matheus as he bundled the ball over the line on 79 minutes. But at that point it seemed only a matter of time before Rangers would score again.

Instead, Braga’s combination of stubborn defending and good fortune gave them the platform to sensationally haul themselves level eight minutes from time when Carmo powered in after a rare foray forward from the visitors.

Extra-time began in disjointed fashion, with the home side’s nerves plain to see, but it was the standout Aribo who turned those fears into celebrations with some neat footwork in the box before teeing up Roofe for a simple finish.

Medeiros made Rangers’ life easier with his foolish sending off soon after and although Arfield will feel he should have hit a fourth when he slammed against the bar, Rangers comfortably saw out the final minutes as they set up a first European semi-final in 14 years.

Proud Van Bronkhorst: A major achievement

Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst to BT Sports: “It was a big night and a big result for us. It was a game that was going up and down: 10 men, nine men, decisions, goals disallowed, VAR, penalties, red cards… it had it all and it was quite hectic but in the end you go through to the seedlings.

“I’m very proud. To reach the last four in Europe is a major achievement for everyone. We worked hard for it in the group stages and in the games after. We knew a 1-0 loss in Braga wasn’t a bad result.

“Against 10 men, nine men we could have played a bit better but I think the players were a bit tense, a bit nervous because you want to go through. But I’m happy for everyone in the end because we succeeded.

“We know we’re going to play Leipzig in two games. It’s going to be a hectic schedule until the end but you don’t want it any different. I’m really happy we could give the fans a tie they could be proud of and to proceed in Europe is huge.

“He gave a lot of confidence the hat-trick Roofe scored last Sunday and the important goal he scored to get us through. I’m really happy with him and his performance. Team-wise we did everything to go through. We needed a big performance and we had it.

“Dreaming is good because it gives you desire and the push to go on. We need two big performances against Leipzig but we’ll enjoy this night.”

Opta stats – Rangers end Braga streak

  • Braga have been eliminated from a two-legged UEFA European knockout tie after winning the first leg for the first time, having progressed in each of the previous 10 instances.
  • Vítor Tormena’s red card was Braga’s fifth in the first half of UEFA Europa League matches, the most of any side; five of their eight red cards in the competition have come before half-time. Owing to their second red card in extra-time, Braga became the first side to have two players sent off in the UEFA Europa League knockout stage match since Rangers in the Last 16 last season against Slavia Prague.
  • James Tavernier has scored six goals in the UEFA Europa League this season for Rangers, the joint-most by a Rangers player in a single season in major European competition (excluding qualifiers), along with Alfredo Morelos (2019-20) and James Forrest ( 1964-65).
  • James Tavernier’s opening goal after 69 seconds was the earliest goal Rangers have ever scored in the UEFA Europa League as well as the earliest that Braga have ever conceded in the competition.

What’s next for Rangers?

Rangers return to domestic action on Sunday against Old Firm rivals Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park; kick-off at 2pm. Celtic boast a healthy six-point advantage at the top of the Scottish Premiership table, putting an added importance on Sunday’s meeting as the Gers look to get one up on their neighbours.

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