The Herald

Blue is the colour as Ibrox fans take over Seville... and the way they feel after loss

- By Martin Williams

THEY had travelled in their thousands to revel in the sunshine and watch their team make history by lifting the Europa League trophy.

But Rangers fans were left in tears in the baking heat of southern Spain after the agonising defeat on penalties.

It was a so-near-and-yet-so far moment for Scottish football as Rangers were beaten by Eintracht Frankfurt in an emotional Europa League final.

The Ibrox club were 20 minutes from creating Scottish football history in capturing their first European football trophy for 50 years – after taking the lead in this heart-stopping match at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-pizjuán.

Midfielder Joe Aribo, who has been converted to an attacker due to injuries, provided the thousands of ecstatic fans in the stadium with huge hope with a goal in the 57th minute that caused bedlam in the stands.

But an equaliser 21 minutes later from Colombian internatio­nal forward Rafael Borre jolted the Ibrox side’s lofty ambitions in winning Scottish football’s fifth ever UEFA competitio­n.

But after a penalty shootout miss from key Rangers signing Aaron Ramsey, it was Borre that returned to haunt Rangers, as he delivered the final conversion, which saw the German side victorious.

It was one of the biggest matches in the club’s history, and their fifth European final.

They lost the 1961 European Cup-winners’ Cup final to Fiorentina and the 1967 final to Bayern Munich before their triumph over Dinamo Moscow in 1972 in the same tournament.

Rangers midfielder John Lundstram said after last night’s game: “It is a hard one to take to lose on penalties. I am severely disappoint­ed. We’ve let everyone down. We can all be superproud to get this far.”

Rangers legend Ally Mccoist added: “The boys will be heartbroke­n. I feel for them. I am gutted for them. It wasn’t to be. They did not let anyone down at all. They can be extremely proud of the journey that they have taken us on.”

The tension of the occasion hit former Rangers defender Richard Foster during the match, who said: “I’m sat down in the gantry having a rest, so I don’t know how the players are feeling! The heat, the nerves, the spectacle, what’s at stake, it’s a combinatio­n of everything...”

Spain’s fourth-largest city was a sea of blue as Rangers fans outnumbere­d rival German supporters by two to one as they celebrated for many the “biggest game of our lives”.

And it was a similar story in the 40,000 capacity Estadio Ramon Sanchez-pizjuan, where some compared the noise to that of a home game, as a carpet of blue jerseys appeared to occupy 65 per cent of the stadium. That is despite the fact just 9,000 tickets were allocated for Rangers fans.

In the city there was beach ball football, bagpipes and a lot of beer as some 100,000 nervously optimistic and excited Rangers supporters swamped the bars and street, to be joined by 50,000 Frankfurt fans.

More than 400 flights arrived in the city on Tuesday, with a similar number – including 16 charter flights from Glasgow Airport taking off on Wednesday – for what was one of the biggest games in the club’s history.

The Glasgow club are the first Scottish team to reach the final of a major European competitio­n since Walter Smith’s Rangers side lost 2-0 in the UEFA Cup showpiece in 2008.

The Europa League final is a massive high over a decade after Rangers entered administra­tion, resulting in the club dropping down to the bottom division in Scottish football.

Another stadium was opened in the city to allow people without tickets to watch the game on big screens.

The 57,000-capacity Estadio La Cartuja in the north of the city is where Old Firm rivals Celtic lost the 2003 Uefa Cup final to Porto.

Rangers fans talked of a “carnival atmosphere”, with the journey from the days of the club’s financial meltdown under Craig Whyte making last night’s events “that bit more special”.

Ally Mccoist said the atmosphere generated by the Rangers fans was “absolutely remarkable”.

“It gives you the goosebumps, of that there is no doubt. I would hazard a guess that Rangers have edged the support, maybe 65 per cent, maybe 70%,” he said.

Seville Police said they were prepared for large numbers of supporters in the city for the match, with about 5,000 officers on duty.

Ahead of the trip a number of former Rangers players, including record goalscorer Mccoist and midfield legend and former manager Graeme Souness, warned fans to behave themselves.

Among the thousands in Seville, were the grandsons of club legend Walter Smith.

Zac Smith, aged 11, his 10-year-old brother Tom and their twin 14-year-old cousins Jack and Adam were lucky enough to have tickets to the game.

Former manager Smith died last year but the boys said their grandfathe­r would have been “having a blast” among the Rangers fans.

Zac said: “Obviously my papa made it to the final and didn’t win it - we’re trying to make up for that today. If it goes to penalties I am going out the stadium.

“It has been amazing. I’ve never experience­d this with Rangers - it’s mind blowing.”

Tom added: “It is incredible how we actually got here in the first place.”

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