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Rangers reach Europa League semi-finals after beating Braga

Rangers won 3-1 after extra-time to set up a semi-final against RB Leipzig.

Rangers reach Europa League semi-finals after beating Braga SNS Group

Rangers beat Braga in extra time at Ibrox to reach the semi-finals of the Europa League, defeating the Portuguese side 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.

Needing to overturn a 1-0 deficit from last week’s first leg, Rangers were in command of the tie by half time at Ibrox after two goals from James Tavernier and an energetic attacking performance that Braga had no answer to.

But a goal from the Portuguese side, who had been reduced to ten-men, forced extra time before Kemar Roofe netted the winner in front of a sell-out crowd.

Victory sees the Premiership champions set up a date with RB Leipzig in the last four, and continues the longest run in European competition by a Scottish side since 2008.

Manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst had made big calls with his team selection, starting Borna Barisic at left back with Calvin Bassey in the centre of defence, giving Aaron Ramsey a starting spot and continuing with Kemar Roofe up front after his hat-trick against St Mirren on Sunday.

In front of a sell-out crowd, Rangers were on the attack from the first whistle and quickly got their reward.

An attack up the left flank saw the ball worked to Barisic and the Croatian swung in a dangerous cross. Joe Aribo got a touch in front of goal, knocking it on to the back post where Tavernier finished ruthlessly from a narrow angle.

With the Rangers crowd roaring the team forward, Rangers though they had taken the lead in the tie after just five minutes. Barisic crossed again and Kemar Roofe headed home but a VAR review found a handball in the build-up and disallowed the goal.

Rangers were undeterred and continued to move the ball quickly, finding space on both flanks and pinning Braga back, creating a hatful of chances but failing to add to their scoreline in a one-sided first half.

Roofe hit the bar and then had another clear chance from an Aribo flick but couldn’t find the net and Kent had a header collected by Braga goalkeeper Matheus in the best of the opportunities.

As half time neared, some may have been concerned that Rangers may come to rue missed chances but the pivotal moment in the tie came in the 44th minute.  

Roofe raced on to a ball over the top and was bundled over by Vitor Tormena in the box. The penalty was awarded, Tormena was sent off and Tavenier stepped up to fire home his penalty and score his second of the night.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 14: Rangers' James Tavernier celebrates making it 2-0 from the penalty spot during a UEFA Europa League Quarter Final 2nd Leg match between Rangers and SC Braga at Ibrox, on April 14, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

With a man advantage and full of confidence after a blistering first half, Rangers continued to attack after the break. Aribo curled a left-foot shot past the post before John Lundstram hit a hopeful effort over the bar.

Rangers thought they had a third after 70 minutes when Roofe raced on to an Aribo pass and dinked a clever finish over Matheus and into the net, only to be called offside when VAR checked the incident.

Braga continued to try and press forward when in possession but weren’t finding any joy, wasting one foray forward when Fabiano shot wildly from 30 yards out. Rangers kept hunting the goal that would put progress beyond doubt.

A Rangers double change saw Ramsey and Ryan Jack replaced by Scott Wright and Glen Kamara, and no sooner had they taken the field when the balance of the tie changed again.

Braga won a corner on the right and had a chance to get men forward. Picanco Medeiros swung the ball in and David Carmo got away from Goldson, rose above Roofe and headed past Allan McGregor. Neither side could find a decisive moment in the remaining six minutes of regulation time or the five added minutes and Rangers found themselves going to extra time in a game they had held control of.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 14: Braga's David Carmo heads home to make it 2-1 during a UEFA Europa League Quarter Final 2nd Leg match between Rangers and SC Braga at Ibrox, on April 14, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The first half of extra time found Rangers far more tentative than they had been, and Braga lifted by their goal, but the hosts were still creating chances. Matheus had to be quick to beat Aribo to a lofted ball, and Kent mishit a shot from the edge of the box but Ibrox was a far nervier place.  

In the 101st minute, Rangers got their goal. Kamara took possession high on the right flank, played in Aribo and the low ball across the six yard box was tucked away by Roofe.

Braga needed something special to rescue their hopes and got the opposite just before the break. Medeiros was shown a yellow card for a challenge on Leon Balogun but reacted furiously and was instantly shown another for jabbing his finger at the referee.

Fashion Sakala and Scott Arfield came on for Rangers and Arfield missed a glorious chance, hitting the bar from six yards with Matheus already on the ground.

Rangers continued to push for another goal without success but saw out the remaining minutes without issue.

Van Bronckhorst and his players now turn their immediate attention the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic but can look ahead to another step on their European journey.