Match ends, RB Leipzig 1, Rangers 0.
Rangers must come from behind if they are to reach their first European final in 14 years after a resolute showing was undone by a late RB Leipzig wonder strike in their Europa League semi-final first leg.
The Bundesliga hosts were limited in their opportunities but take a slender lead to Glasgow thanks to a stunning Angelino volley five minutes from time.
Ryan Kent flashed a rare chance wide for Rangers, but Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side will have to hope the tie can be salvaged at Ibrox.
For large spells, their performance in Germany was composed, with a vocal home crowd growing all the more frustrated as time ebbed away before a goal that illuminated an otherwise tense tie.
But it will be Rangers hoping to call upon a raucous Ibrox next Thursday as a night of drama is teed up in Govan.
On a balmy night in eastern Germany, there was a whiff of familiarity amid the aroma of the local brew and revelry.
In 2008, Walter Smith’s team’s long and winding road to Manchester is remembered for some of the most disciplined defending you’re likely to see. Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen, Sporting Lisbon and famously Fiorentina will testify to that.
In the breathtaking Red Bull Arena, it took a moment of sheer brilliance in the 85th minute to deny Rangers another credible European clean sheet to add to the list.
As Fashion Sakala’s headed clearance descended towards Angelino on the edge of the box, the Spaniard didn’t break stride to meet the ball perfectly. An hush replaced the din inside the ground, before it was reignited when his arrowed shot rifled past Allan McGregor and into the far corner.
It was hard to stomach given Rangers’ composure and improved performance after the break, but in the first the flow of traffic towards their goal was as relentless as the chanting, singing and bellowing from inside this cauldron of noise.
Star man Christopher Nkunku was the first to be frustrated as Calvin Bassey’s block denied him after a Borna Barisic lapse. Seconds later, Connor Goldson’s quick reactions halted what would have been a thundering effort from Konrad Laimer. There was a block near the line from James Tavernier, too.
Around 7,000 Rangers fans had little to shout about for pretty much all of a dour first half, but they gave it a go anyway. A nervous Scott Wright struggled to settle in attack, while Kent was isolated.
Yet, the restart would rouse a focus from the visitors almost instantly.
With Joe Aribo now playing through the middle, a quick break was led by the scampering Kent. Lukas Klostermann was left floundering by one jink and duke after another, allowing the Englishman to rifle the ball across goal. The Rangers fans in the far corner gasped as it flew just past the far post.
The game finally crackled and sparked into the encounter the venue, crowd and occasion deserved. Nkunku rammed a right-foot shot at goal that McGregor did well to get his palms as the rattled hosts replied instantly.
But Nkunku’s class and poise would soon desert him. The gifted Frenchman, who has 30 goals this season, snuck past John Lundstram, and rounded McGregor but, with the goal gaping, hoisted an off-balance shot high and wide. It may still be travelling through the night sky.
As the seconds ebbed away, the intense pressure on Rangers’ defence ramped up, with Angelino’s moment of class bringing bedlam to the Red Bull Arena.
Man of the match – Angelino
What did we learn?
Rangers in Europe can be a joy to watch at times. There has rarely been a dull moment over their 17 games, but their mission to nullify and frustrate an astute Bundesliga side seeking their first major trophy almost worked to perfection. It took a goal worthy of the occasion to spoil that plan.
But we’ve been here before with the Scottish champions, haven’t we?
In the quarter-finals, Sporting Braga earned a 1-0 first-leg win, just to be hit with a completely different beast when the tie got back to Glasgow. That will provide so much belief that this tie can be salvaged, albeit Leipzig have a stellar away record.
The conundrum of who plays up front still exists. Wright struggled at the apex of the attack in the first half, while Aribo looked much more comfortable there after the break. Will he be the man to lead the line next week if Kemar Roofe is still out?
What they said
RB Leipzig head coach Domenico Tedesco to BT Sport: “It was a tough game. Normally Rangers are not that deep, they were compact and it was pretty hard to play against such an opponent.
“In the second half we had three or four good chances, and the most difficult one we score. It’s a little bit of luck there; we know [Angelino] would shoot 10 times there and probably score twice.
“Now Rangers have to come out more – maybe not from the start – and when there are more spaces we are better.”
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst to BT Sport: “We were well-organised. I think the first half was more making sure they couldn’t create goals. We weren’t as confident on the ball as in the second half.
“It’s always disappointing when you lose a goal so late in the game. But the players played really well and next week we’re at home and Ibrox will give us the energy we need.
“We need to attack them at the right moments with more bodies. But a 1-0 defeat, we can overcome that.”
- RB Leipzig have won consecutive Europa League knock-out ties for the first time, and are unbeaten in their last five such games in the competition – their best ever run.
- Rangers have lost three consecutive European away games for the first time since October 2019. They last had a similar run in a single season in 2000-01 (across the Champions League & Uefa Cup).
- RB Leipzig have kept consecutive clean sheets in European knock-out matches for just the second time, last doing so in March 2020 when defeating Tottenham home and away in the Champions League
- Rangers have won just two of their last 25 European away matches against German opposition (D9 L14).
- They had 29.7% of possession, the lowest share of the ball they’ve ever recorded in a Europa League match.
- Angelino scored his first Europa League goal (in his fifth appearance) and his first in European competition since netting against Manchester United in the Champions League in December 2020.
Rangers’ big games keep coming. Van Bronckhorst’s team go to Celtic Park on Sunday (12:00 BST) for the final Old Firm game of the season, before Leipzig come to Glasgow on Thursday (20:00) for a shot at a historic Europa League final.
- 39HenrichsSubstituted forMukieleat 89′minutes
- 25OlmoSubstituted forForsbergat 71′minutes
- 17SzoboszlaiSubstituted forAndré Silvaat 71′minutes
- 18NkunkuSubstituted forPoulsenat 89′minutes
- 33André Silva
- 38Novoa Ramos
- 2TavernierBooked at 90mins
- 6GoldsonBooked at 90mins
- 8JackSubstituted forSandsat 83′minutes
- 17Ayodele-AriboSubstituted forArfieldat 83′minutes
- 23WrightSubstituted forSakalaat 69′minutes
Second Half ends, RB Leipzig 1, Rangers 0.
Corner, RB Leipzig. Conceded by James Tavernier.
James Tavernier (Rangers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by James Tavernier (Rangers).
Connor Goldson (Rangers) is shown the yellow card.
André Silva (RB Leipzig) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Connor Goldson (Rangers).
Foul by Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig).
Borna Barisic (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, RB Leipzig. Nordi Mukiele replaces Benjamin Henrichs.
Substitution, RB Leipzig. Yussuf Poulsen replaces Christopher Nkunku.
Foul by Angeliño (RB Leipzig).
James Tavernier (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! RB Leipzig 1, Rangers 0. Angeliño (RB Leipzig) left footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner following a corner.
Corner, RB Leipzig. Conceded by Allan McGregor.
Attempt saved. Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Christopher Nkunku.
Substitution, Rangers. Scott Arfield replaces Joe Ayodele-Aribo.
Substitution, Rangers. James Sands replaces Ryan Jack.