Soccer locker rooms are sacred spaces filled with secrets and rituals that only those with access to them know. They have more in common with confessions than with changing rooms, and in many cases the confessor is the man given the job title of Equipment Controller and who, in the narrow sense, is responsible for wearing appropriate shirts, pants, socks, and shoes.
Jimmy Bell was such a man, he had worked for the Glasgow Rangers for over 30 years. Until his unexpected death on Tuesday. On Thursday night, Rangers faced RB Leipzig in the Europa League semi-final and they just didn’t want to make up for the 1-0 loss from the first leg. But above all, he won for Jimmy. They succeeded. Rangers won 3-1 and advanced to the final in Seville, where they met Eintracht Frankfurt on May 18. The most important match for Rangers in exactly 50 years will be when they won the Cup Winners’ Cup in Barcelona against Dinamo Moscow. For Leipzig, on the other hand, the address option has disappeared. You still have hope of winning the cup. The two teams will meet Freiburg in the final in Berlin on May 21.
Rangers’ victory was based on the fact that their team had nothing to do with the team that presented itself at the Leipzig Arena last week. There was a Glasgow kind of dr. Jekyll, at home on the team of Ibrox Park coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst was now Mr. Hyde. A frantic team appeared from the first second as if 50,000 spectators were digging spurs into the flesh of eleven players in blue shirts. Even in the VIP chest, the upper class immigrated, even though they were wearing delicately knotted neckties, and they did their part to make sure that every duel on the field battled the unwavering resolve associated with pub brawls.
But as the Rangers dealt with broken glass, Leipzig lined up with tattered open Tetra-Paks. They made their first mistake in the 35th minute. At that point, Rangers were already 2-0 up.
The happiness of Leipzig lasts only ten minutes
The first target in particular was emotionally powerful. Ryan Kent advanced from the left and made a low pass into the six-yard box, as James Tavernier pushed the ball over the line from close range (19′). Tavernier had told the previous evening how equipment manager Bale had pulled the captain’s armband over his biceps before each game. Five minutes later, it was Glenn Kamara who scored from 16 meters to make it 2-0 at Leipzig. RB Leipzig had few shots from the two Spaniards to counter it. As soon as Dani Olmo put the corner (28), shortly before the end of the first half, Angelino hit defender Joe Aribo in a free kick knockout. Aribo was hit in the face, fell and had to be replaced.
This was the only stage where coach Domenico Tedesco was able to communicate with his team. In the isolation of their cabin, onlookers could not be heard. Leipzig then managed to have longer stages of ball possession. But no compelling opportunities arose from this. Their game lacked urgency, determination and precision for a long time – until Konrad Laimer was discharged central in the 70th minute and was alone in front of Rangers goalkeeper Alan McGregor in the penalty area.
Laimer hit the goalkeeper – and he was fortunate that another great opportunity came to him right away when he was still busy ripping his hair out. Because after Angelino’s cross from the left, striker Christopher Nkunku extended – who else? – The ball is in the net to become 2-1 (71). So, the knockout round was balanced. But only for ten minutes.
A cross from Rangers’ attacking power Kent got taller and taller – and flew in a high arc above RB Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Golassi. Defender Josco Gvardiol kicked the ball off the goal line. But it fell to John Lundstram, who shot in a flat to make it 3-1. It meant the only final match – also because in the hour of their crew manager Jimmy Bell’s death, the Rangers professionals were ready to play the game of their lives.