Rangers ensured their UEFA Europa League (UEL) fairytale isn’t over just yet, as a 3-1 extra time victory over Braga at an electric Ibrox set up a semi-final date with RB Leipzig, while ending Braga’s 100% record of progressing in ties in which they had won the first leg.
As far as starts go, Rangers couldn’t have asked for a better one. There were no more than 70 seconds on the clock when Borna Barišić’s cross was helped on by Joe Aribo, and James Tavernier added the finishing touches at the far post to level the tie. Spurred on by the electric Ibrox atmosphere, Rangers thought they had nosed ahead on aggregate inside five minutes, when Barišić was again the provider and Kemar Roofe powered home a header from close range, but the goal was ruled out for a handball in the build-up.
Braga were struggling to keep track of Roofe, and he ought to have put Rangers ahead mid-way through the first half, but he somehow rattled the bar from just three yards out when it seemed easier to score. Roofe would have a hand in ensuring Rangers headed into the break ahead in the tie though, as he was bundled over in the penalty box by last-man Vitor Tormena. The offending Braga man was duly dismissed, and Tavernier made no mistake in converting from 12-yards. Making their man advantage count wasn’t proving to be easy for Rangers despite their territorial advantage, with Aaron Ramsey heading over from another teasing Barišić delivery.
Roofe was then denied a much sought-after goal once again, with the linesman’s flag for offside cutting short his joy, after a sumptuous dink left Matheus red-faced. Rangers were unable to rest easy on just a one-goal aggregate cushion, and were made to pay ten minutes from time when the ten-men of Braga hit Rangers with a sucker-punch from a rare foray forward. David Carmo did the honours to silence Ibrox, heading home Iuri Medeiros’ corner to send the tie into extra time.
Though undoubtedly feeling the physical strain along with his teammates, Roofe may have been glad to see extra time, as it brought around a drastic change in his fortunes. He tapped home Aribo’s cross from all of three yards to send Ibrox into raptures again, before Braga’s Medeiros turned villain, as a moment of utter madness saw him collect two yellow cards no more than five seconds apart. This left Braga facing the last 15 minutes two men light, and Rangers were comfortable in holding on to secure their safe passage to a famous UEL semi-final.