Aribo scores but loses as Eintracht Frankfurt beat Rangers on penalties to lift UEFA Europa League trophy
Despite hitting target, Super Eagles midfielder Joe Aribo was on the losing side as Eintracht Frankfurt beat his club Rangers 5-4 on penalties in the UEFA Europa League (UEL) final Wednesday night.
The pulsating match saw the German side secure a trophy that their supporters will celebrate for a long time, many of whom weren’t born when Frankfurt last tasted European glory in the UEFA Cup of 1979/80.
Despite 100,000 Glaswegian voices rousing vociferously for their Scottish darling, Frankfurt remained unfazed testing Allan McGregor with ferocious shots at will. It took the goalie a magnificent save deny a dipping Ansgar Knauff effort on the half hour mark.
Rangers however fought back, posing their own threats via set pieces. Yet the game ended goalless first half.
Building on that late surge before half-time, Rangers went 1-0 up early into the second period after a defensive slip from Frankfurt.
Hardly able to believe his luck, a weaving Joe Aribo found himself in acres of space before making no mistake with a rolled finish.
Minutes later, he was also a vital influence at the other end, valiantly blocking Jesper Lindstrøm’s fizzed shot on the goal-line just before the hour mark.
However, conditions were perhaps a factor in several lapses of Rangers’ concentration. Rafael Borré duly capitalised, storming in to tap home Filip Kostić’s searching cross to level the tie on 69 minutes.
Frankfurt were fearless in their push, but the relentless heat meant that the game was played at near walking speed in the closing stages, with both sides looking relieved to hear the full-time whistle.
An energy-zapping 30-minute extra period ensued, and perhaps galvanised by the sheer willpower of the players, both sets of fans attempted to inspire a winner.
Chances were understandably thin on the ground, but only a superb stop by Kevin Trapp denied Ryan Kent from sealing immortality for Rangers in the final seconds.
Keeping their nerve, Eintracht Frankfurt lifted the trophy after penalties without even having tasted defeat in this year’s UEL campaign.
Scorer of the earlier equaliser, Borré, did the honours to break Rangers’ hearts and see Frankfurt win a European penalty shootout at the third attempt.
In turn, they will enter the UEFA Champions League as one of the top seeds next term, protected at the group stage from the likes of Real Madrid and PSG.
Meanwhile, Rangers have still only won once on Spanish soil in their history. However, they should be proud of their incredible effort, just a decade on from facing fourth-tier oblivion in Scotland.
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