Rangers making dreams a reality after beating RB Leipzig to reach the Europa League final; West Ham learn painful lesson in Frankfurt as they fall short in semi-final; Leicester fail to do themselves justice as they're beaten by Roma in Europa Conference League semi-final
Friday 6 May 2022 13:42, UK
Make Us Dream was the message from the Rangers fans and the players delivered.
They wanted to do legendary kitman Jimmy Bell proud just days after his sudden death and they did that and more on an unforgettable evening at Ibrox.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Germany, a 3-1 victory on the night was enough to set up a final against Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville on May 18.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst has only been in charge for six months and he has the chance to do what only Willie Waddell has done before him and lead Rangers to a European trophy.
There's a feeling it might just be their year - it's their 150th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of that European Cup Winners' Cup victory in Barcelona.
Van Bronckhorst can always rely on his captain, James Tavernier, to rise to the challenge and the right-back is the outright top scorer in the Europa League this season with seven goals so far.
After beating Borussia Dortmund on the way to the final, there is no reason for Rangers to fear their final opponents.
Dortmund are second in the Bundesliga, RB Leipzig currently fifth and the team they will meet on May 18 down in 11th.
West Ham will leave Frankfurt with a feeling of what might have been after the Aaron Cresswell red card. And who can blame them?
Eintracht, a team that had one win in their previous 10 home games, looked nervous in the 18 minutes before his dismissal in front of a raucous crowd.
The red card gave them confidence and they never looked back. It's not difficult to see that it was the turning point.
But perhaps there was more to it than just that. Sloppy defending in key moments let West Ham down - just as they did in the first leg - and ultimately cost them a place in the Europa League final.
For the sending off, Cresswell was left stranded as the last man back to deal with a looping ball over the top, with Craig Dawson and Kurt Zouma nowhere to be seen.
Cresswell has shown he can fill in as part of a back three, but should never be left to deal with such a situation as the last man. Certainly not so early on, with the game so finely poised.
The other key moment took place just eight minutes later, with West Ham all at sea following Creswell's sending off.
An unmarked Rafael Santos Borre was left completely unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box to extend Frankfurt's lead after a cut-back from Ansgar Knauff. It was all too easy for Frankfurt.
Two uncharacteristic mistakes left West Ham with an insurmountable challenge, teaching them a cruel lesson about just how tough it is in the latter stages of European competition.
But there is plenty to be proud of, a run which includes wins over Sevilla and Lyon to reach a first European semi-final for 46 years is no mean feat. And they'll be back.
"We have a pretty good team, so I think we can try again," said David Moyes after the game. "We will be a bit wiser and can hopefully do it more often."
Has it been a successful season for Leicester? Having lifted the FA Cup a year ago, you would have to say it has been ultimately underwhelming with the master here beating the apprentice. The silver fox Jose Mourinho at the expense of Brendan Rodgers' Foxes.
Leicester must rebuild, but around whom will Rodgers call upon if he indeed decides to stick around at the King Power Stadium.
"It's a big experience for them and that gives them extra motivation moving forward," the Leicester boss added. "It's been great for the club. We've just missed out but we must now look to finish the season strongly and look to progress in the summer."
A pre-match banner declared 'Everyone in Britain dreads the name of the Romans' - and only four teams from the Premier League have now won in 19 such meetings.
Home fans had begun hurling flares at the Leicester supporters long before kick-off at a hostile Stadio Olimpico with the hosts looking to reach their first European final since 1991, when they lost the UEFA Cup to Inter Milan.
Tammy Abraham will spearhead Roma's charge for a first European success for 50 years but for Leicester, there will be a lingering sense of regret they failed to seriously trouble Roma and never did themselves justice.
The club have torn up the rule book after winning the Premier League and FA Cup in the last six years but, this season, European success was just out of reach.