Since their founding in Glasgow Rangers Football Club in 1872, the Gers have enjoyed a trophy-laden history. With their record 55 domestic league titles, they are the most successful British club when it comes to domestic title wins.
However, they have struggled to transfer their domestic performances into European competitions. Despite 300 appearances in various UEFA competitions, Rangers have only ever won one European trophy.
Treble winners clash in Manchester
In 2008, Rangers and Zenit St. Petersburg met in the final of the UEFA Cup, the game pitted Walter Smith and Zenit boss Dick Advocaat against each other. Both head coaches had completed domestic trebles with the Ger’s, Smith in 1993 and Advocaat six years later in 1999. To find out who won the battle of the bosses, read on.
Best performance ends in hammering by Frankfurt
Rangers best run in the European Cup came in the 1959–60 season when they made it to the semi-finals. However, their journey in European football’s elite competition came to an abrupt end against German side Eintracht Frankfurt, as the Gers’ suffered a 12-4 aggregate defeat.
Frankfurt recorded a 6-1 home win in the first leg before the Eagles recorded a 6-3 win over Rangers at Ibrox. The Scottish giants have not produced any similar run in the European Cup or its successor, the Champions League, since their big aggregate defeat.
Won the European Cup Winner’ Cup in 1972
Rangers’ only European triumph to date was back in 1972 when the Scottish giants lifted the European Cup Winner’ Cup beating Russian team Dinamo Moscow 3-2 in the final. They booked their place in the final by beating German giants Bayern Munich 3-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals.
Due to injury, Dinamo headed into this clash without two influential players, Vladimir Kozlov and Anatoli Kozhemyakin. The latter died at the age of just 21 in a bizarre incident involving a lift.
The Russian side started the game in a defensive system in order to restrict Rangers, who were a vibrant attacking team. However, the ploy backfired, as Rangers were two goals up by half-time. Striker Colin Stein scored the opening on 23 minutes from a Dave Smith assist. The Scottish side doubled their lead on 40 minutes as Willie Johnston headed home from another Smith pass.
Rangers all but secured victory in the 49th minute, as Johnston pounced on a long ball from goalkeeper Peter McCloy. With half an hour left on the clock, Dinamo Moscow got a goal back through Vladimir Eshtrekov after some poor defending from the Rangers backline.
McCloy was then forced into two excellent saves from Mikhail Gershkovich before Sandy Jardine cleared off his own line from an Evryuzhihin effort. Dinamo scored their second goal just three minutes from the end through an Aleksandr Makhovikov effort. However, it was too little too late for the Soviet side.
A late pitch invasion held the game up for several minutes and arguably disrupted Dinamo’s attempts to equalise. Rangers held on to claim their only European trophy, but captain John Greig was unable to collect the cup due to another pitch invasion after the final whistle.
Rangers went on to suffer a 6-3 aggregate defeat against Dutch giants Ajax in the European Super Cup the following season. The Gers’ lost both legs of the tie.
Misery in Manchester in 2008
Rangers’ next appearance in a European final came in 2008 when they suffered a 2-0 defeat against Zenit St Petersburg in Manchester. The competition pitted Rangers against their former head coach Dick Advocaat. Rangers took a reported 200,000 fans to Manchester for the game, which is acknowledged to be the biggest away support for a European match ever.
Zenit came out on top in the game despite the absence of the competition’s top scorer that year, striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, who was absent due to suspension. Rangers were underdogs, but it took their Russian opponents 72 minutes to open the scoring. Midfielder Igor Denisov received the ball off Andrey Arshavin before keeping his composure to fire past Neil Alexander in the Rangers’ goal. Zenit sealed the win with virtually the last kick of the game, as winger Konstantin Zyryanov tapped home from close range.
The game was marred by violence and riots in Manchester city centre due to the sheer number of people in the area. The trouble is believed to have started after a big screen due to show the game encountered technical issues. The riots led to 11 people being convicted of rioting.
More suffering in Seville
Rangers had to wait another 14 years before their next taste of a European final. Once again, the Scottish side suffered a defeat, this time suffering defeat on penalty kicks against Eintracht Frankfurt in the final after normal and extra-time produced a 1-1 draw.
Rangers took the lead on 57 minutes. Nigerian international Joe Aribo latched on to the ball and coolly fired past Kevin Trapp in the Eintracht goal after a slip from Frankfurt Brazilian defender Tuta. The German side equalised 12 minutes later, as Colombian striker Rafael Borre poked home from a low Filip Kostic cross. Neither team could find a winner in normal time, so extra time was needed to decide the contest.
The Scottish side came close to scoring the winning goal late in extra-time, as Trapp produced an excellent save to keep out a Ryan Kent effort from close range. The save ensured that a penalty shootout decided the final.
Krapp was once again the hero for the Eagles, as he saved an Aaron Ramsey penalty kick before Borre scored the decisive spot kick. The defeat was a hard one to take for Rangers, especially after Kent’s late chance.
Rangers’ fans always hopeful of European success
Despite Rangers’ status as one of Britain’s biggest football clubs, the Scottish giants have found it challenging to compete in European competition. It is not always an even playing field, with their opponents often having greater financial muscle.
One day Rangers may well be in a position to achieve European glory. However, for now, the Gers’ fans may look back at their latest finals and wonder what might have been.