Rangers’ celebrations after beating RB Leipzig to secure a place in the final of the Europa League have been dedicated to late kitman Jimmy Bell.
Manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst said that his staff and players raised a toast to the much-loved figure, who had served the club for over 30 years until his death earlier this week, after the 3-1 win at Ibrox.
There was a minute’s silence for Bell ahead of the game, the only moment of quiet on a raucous night in Govan which saw Rangers overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg in Germany.
Fans were dreaming of the final in Seville after the competition’s top scorer, Light Blues skipper James Tavernier, opened the scoring in the 18th minute.
Just six minutes later, Glen Kamara doubled the lead to crank up the volume inside the stadium even further.
There was to be deflation in the second half when Leipzig’s in-demand France striker Christopher Nkunku levelled the tie in the 70th minute with a smart volley and Rangers held on with extra time looming.
But there was an eruption of noise as John Lundstram netted to make it 3-1 on the night and booked a date with Eintracht Frankfurt in the final.
Ibrox. Nothing comes close. pic.twitter.com/emCQurdnH5
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) May 6, 2022
After the match, Van Bronckhorst said: “The interaction with the fans was amazing.
“I played so many games here as a player and from last November as a manager but the atmosphere was incredible. That helped a lot.
“You could see the celebrations afterwards, we were happy, we were celebrating to reach the final, also in the locker room and it was really nice.
“But we ended the atmosphere of partying and took a moment to let the achievement sink in and have a really nice toast for Jimmy the kitman who I am sure was watching from above and we toasted his life and achievements, what he has done for this club.
“We will miss him for the rest of our lives and again in Seville we will prepare for another proud moment for this club.”
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) May 5, 2022
The Dutchman praised the performance of his team, especially after a fraught period when the visitors made it 2-1 on the night and 2-2 on aggregate.
He said: “It was an amazing night from the start.
“We had the start we wanted, to score first which was very important.
“We managed to get two goals which was amazing.
“At half time we knew it was going to be harder the second half because they needed to push and they did.
“After a great save by Allan (McGregor), it was 2-1 and I think that was the critical moment for both teams.
“We were defending but they were coming at us with so much speed and power and I knew either goal would be decisive but to score in the 83rd minute not only gave us the belief- that was there – but the energy and power to play out the last minutes.”
‘He’d be looking down so proud’
Tavernier also dedicated the win to Bell and late manager Walter Smith, who was the last man to guide Rangers to a European final.
He told BT Sport: “First and foremost, we wanted to do it for Jimmy (Bell), and I’m super proud of the effort that all the lads put in, all the staff, and all the fans today. He’d be looking down proud, so would Walter (Smith). I’m absolutely delighted, we’re through to the final and you can hear the noise, unbelievable.
“We’ll obviously go there (to the final) full of confidence but Frankfurt got into the final for a reason. So it’s one game, and we fully back ourselves, and we’ll give everything like we did tonight.
“We obviously want to win it, we’re in this competition to win, we’re a club that wins trophies and that’s what we want to do. We want to make all the fans proud – I know we’ll be taking a lot over, so it will be great scenes.”
After a lap of honour round the pitch celebrating with fans, fellow goalscorer Lundstram said: “I can’t put it into words. I came into tonight with a good feeling thinking we can get a result here tonight – of course we can, look at the place. But to actually go out and do it, I honestly can’t put it into words how much it means to me.
“We’ve been through some ups and downs this season, and to come out towards the end of it and be in a Europa League final – wow, what an achievement.
“It’s the best night (of my career) by a country mile. Playing in the Premier League was a massive achievement for myself, but to go tonight and get into a Europa League final, wow, unbelievable.”
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