How Rangers dealt with night laced with tension at rocking Ibrox - Dortmund downed, bizarre VAR intervention, Europa League last 16 once again

Whatever else Giovanni van Bronckhorst goes on to achieve as Rangers manager, he is sure to look back on this epic Europa League elimination of Borussia Dortmund as one of the highlights of his coaching career.

Rangers' players celebrate a famous win against Dortmund.
Rangers' players celebrate a famous win against Dortmund.

On an evening of unrelenting intensity and drama at Ibrox, the Scottish champions completed an outstanding aggregate triumph over the Bundesliga giants who had seriously threatened to overturn their 4-2 first leg deficit.

On an evening of unrelenting intensity and drama at Ibrox, the Scottish champions completed an outstanding aggregate triumph over the Bundesliga giants who had seriously threatened to overturn their 4-2 first leg deficit.

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They recovered from the concession of a penalty which James Tavernier converted to lead 2-1 at half-time with goals from Jude Bellingham and Donyell Malen.

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst celebrates at full time.

The knockout round play-off tie was in danger of running away from a rattled Rangers side at that stage but van Bronckhorst can take great credit for a tactical switch which steadied the ship and got his team back on course for the last 16.

His decision to bring on Leon Balogun for Borna Barisic and switch to a three-man central defence with John Lundstram dropping back from midfield was a masterstroke.

Tavernier’s second goal of the night - the captain’s 75th for Rangers – restored control as van Bronckhorst’s men recorded one of their greatest ever two-legged European victories.

On a night laced with tension, they seemed to have eased their own early nerves with Tavernier’s 22nd minute spot-kick.

Dortmund did respond through Jude Bellingham.

Dortmund had been the sharper and likelier side from the start, Bellingham hitting a post in one of their early raids, but gave themselves an even bigger mountain to climb when Julian Brandts was undone by Ryan Kent’s trickery as he tripped the Rangers winger right on the edge of the penalty area.

Tavernier kept cool amid the cauldron of anticipation in the Ibrox stands, smashing the ball down the middle as Gregor Kobel dived to his right.

But the sense that Rangers were now firmly in command of the tie was short-lived. Dortmund continued to dominate possession and as they roared back into contention, they were aided by some woefully weak defending from Rangers.

Connor Goldson was especially culpable, his hesitancy and failure to execute a straightforward clearance allowing Bellingham to beat Allan McGregor with a cool finish.

Rangers did miss a glorious opportunity to regain the lead on the night, Alfredo Morelos smashing a shot against Mats Hummels from close range after Kobel had saved well from Scott Arfield, but Dortmund fully deserved the second goal they grabbed three minutes before half-time.

Rangers were flat-footed again as the ball fizzed across their penalty area, Goldson and Tavernier both missing chances to clear the danger before Bellingham set up Malen for a neat close range finish.

The half-time change of personnel and shape brought composure back into Rangers’ play and provided them with increased threat in wide areas. Calvin Bassey relished his left wing-back role and when his cross was missed by Emre Can, Tavernier rammed home to restore a two-goal lead in the tie.

It would have been extended, but for a bizarre VAR intervention which saw a Kent goal wrongly ruled out for a foul by Morelos in the build-up when the striker had in fact been kicked by Can as he nicked the ball from him.

Happily for Rangers, it didn’t come back to bite them. The full-time whistle was the signal for raucous celebrations, van Bronckhorst as gleeful as anyone.

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