For Seville, it was the hottest day of the year. For Eintracht Frankfurt it was one of the greatest nights in the German club’s 123-year history.
Amid deafening noise and sweltering 31C (88F) heat on Wednesday, Frankfurt beat Glasgow Rangers 5-4 in a dramatic penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw to clinch a fairytale UEFA Europa League title at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium.
Colombian Rafael Borre, having canceled out Joe Aribo’s opener, slotted home the deciding penalty after former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey had missed for Rangers
Incredibly, it means that despite finishing 11th in the Bundesliga – 35 points behind champion Bayern Munich – Frankfurt will join the German powerhouse in pot one of next season’s UEFA Champions League draw.
Only the third team in Europa League history to reach the final unbeaten, Frankfurt can reflect on a magical European journey that included memorable triumphs over Spanish giants Barcelona and an impressive West Ham side.
And having suffered the agony of a semifinal penalty shootout defeat to eventual winners Chelsea in 2019, the manner of victory could not have been sweeter for the traveling Frankfurt fans who – donning the colors of their club’s match shirt – formed a raucous white wall behind the goal.
Thousands more crammed into the club’s Deutsche Bank Park in Germany to create a similarly noisy atmosphere back home.
Around 30,000 Rangers fans watched the game on big screens at the nearby Estadio La Cartuja, according to a tweet from the stadium, as Scots poured into Seville for the game.
Having suffered a second defeat at the competition’s final hurdle after a loss to Zenit St Petersburg in 2008, it may take a while for wounds to heal for Rangers.
A sensational save from Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp at point-blank range from Ryan Kent in the final moments of extra-time will undoubtedly be seared into the minds of Rangers fans as the Scottish side came so close to winning late on
“It’s heartbreaking,” Rangers’ John Lundstram told BT Sport. “We could’ve won it, but what a save [from Trapp]. What can you do? I’m absolutely devastated. I’m so, so, so heartbroken.”
Midfielder Steven Davis added: “It’s huge disappointment. It’s hard to reflect straight away. We know how difficult it will be to get to this stage again.”
However, Ranger can look back on an incredible journey – this year and across the last decade – to reach one of European football’s showpiece finals.
A memorable run exploded into life with a stunning victory over German giants Borussia Dortmund, before another famous night in Glasgow saw Rangers defeat another Bundesliga outfit in Red Bull Leipzig.
Ten years ago Rangers stared into the abyss – riddled with debt and collapsing into administration, forced to form a new company just to be able to begin again from the fourth tier of Scottish football.
Though failing in the defense of the Scottish Premiership title this season after being bested by arch-rivals Celtic, Wednesday was a marker of how far Rangers have come.
Agonizingly denied the chance to feature in the final against Zenit in 2008 due to injury, Rangers’ 40-year-old goalkeeper Allan McGregor made a string of smart saves to keep the scores level.
An acrobatic dive to tip Ansgar Knauff’s powerful effort around the post proved the pick of the bunch in a first-half of few clear chances.
Then 10 minutes into the second cue blue bedlam, as makeshift striker Aribo – having chased shadows for much of the game – went scampering after an errant header from Frankfurt midfielder Djibril Sow.
And after pursuing defender Tuta tripped, Aribo slotted a cool finish past Trapp to score his first goal in this season’s competition.
Moments before the second-half water break, it was the white half of the stadium’s turn to erupt, as Colombian Borre reacted fastest to turn home Filip Kostic’s inviting cross.
With Borre and Kostic the club’s top scorer and provider respectively in the Bundesliga this season, perhaps that goal was inevitable, but Rangers defenderr Connor Goldson will have been disappointed after letting the ball run past him.
A nervous end to regular time precluded an even nervier period of extra-time, Borre going closest early on following a slip from Calvin Bassey, but the Rangers defender recovered superbly to deny the Colombian from scoring his second of the game.
The Scots almost snatched a stunning winner at the death, but Trapp saved superbly from Kent before stopping James Tavernier’s free-kick to send the game to penalties.