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Europa League final expert analysis: Frankfurt 1-1 Rangers (5-4 on pens)

UEFA's Technical Observer panel analyse Frankfurt's dramatic UEFA Europa League final triumph, edging out Rangers on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Match analysis: Lundstram's defensive support

It took a penalty shoot-out to separate Eintracht Frankfurt from Rangers in the UEFA Europa League final and earn the German club their first continental club prize since 1980.

It was a cagey final on an evening of heat and high tension at the Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium. In this article presented by Swissquote, the UEFA Technical Observer Panel explores some of the key tactical aspects – including a video focus on John Lundstram's intelligent work in dropping back to support Rangers' defence.

As it happened: Europa League final


Highlights: Frankfurt 1-1 Rangers (5-4 pens)

0–1 Joe Aribo (57)
A feature of the final was that both goalkeepers looked to play long, rather than short, and it was actually from a long kick upfield by Kevin Trapp that Rangers struck. Connor Goldson headed the ball back into the Eintracht half where Djibril Sow, misjudging its flight, nodded it backwards, catching out Tuta, the centre-back behind him, who slipped to the ground. With a clear run down the middle, Aribo had time to steady himself and, on his favoured left foot, rolled a low finish past Trapp. It was not an easy night for the Nigerian, often isolated in attack, but he kept his composure to claim his first Europa League goal of the season.

1–1 Rafael Borré (69)
Filip Kostić's sixth assist of this European campaign was a low ball from wide on the left, driven towards the five-metre box. Goldson failed to intercept it and Borré nipped in cleverly ahead of Calvin Bassey to prod past Allan McGregor at his near post. It was the Colombian's fourth goal of the competition and meant Frankfurt had scored in every game played. Borré would later convert the winning spot kick.

Player of the Match: Kevin Trapp

Player of the Match: Kevin Trapp

The data shows that Trapp saved 4.3 goals with his efforts across this campaign. Of his 35 saves, none was more crucial than the one he produced in the 118th minute of the final when foiling Ryan Kent at point-blank range with his outstretched right leg. He then stopped Aaron Ramsey's penalty too and summing up his contribution, the UEFA Technical Observer Panel praised him for "a good performance over the 90 minutes, a great save at the end of extra time to keep Frankfurt in the game and a decisive penalty save in the shoot-out."

Team formations

Oliver Glasner set his side up in their usual 3-4-2-1. With Martin Hinteregger absent with a muscle injury, Almamy Touré (18) took his place in the back three. Alongside him Tuta (35) lasted only 58 minutes before making way for Makoto Hasebe. Further up, Jesper Lindstrøm (29) – a pre-final doubt owing to injury – was selected ahead of Jens Petter Hauge as one of the two attacking midfielders behind Borré (19).

Giovanni van Bronckhorst selected the same XI as against Leipzig in the home leg of the semi-final albeit where Rangers had played with a 5-4-1 that night, this time it was a 4-3-3. Lundstram (4), in particular, and Ryan Jack (8) shifted across to the right when needed to provide cover for James Tavernier (2) on the side where Frankfurt had their dangerman Kostić. The video above highlights the work of Lundstram in filling in defensively as Tavernier headed up the pitch.


Kostić was the competition's player of the season and whether Rangers could restrict his influence was a key question ahead of the contest in Seville. The Serbian's pace – he reached a top speed of 33.4km/h in the final – directness and creativity had been major assets to Eintracht throughout their run and it was no surprise that he should have proved the player with most touches (114) on the night.

Equally, it was no surprise that Rangers had two players on him whenever possible. As a consequence it was not until just after the half-hour that Kostić posed his first serious threat with a break upfield from deep in his own half, which ended with him flashing a ball beyond McGregor's far post. Despite Rangers' efforts, Kostić still registered the most carries of any Eintracht player (55) and set up their goal with one of the two chances he created.

According to the UEFA Technical Observer Panel, Eintracht might have profited more from the opposition's focus on the left-sided Kostić, by looking more to their right-hand side for Ansgar Knauff and also for spaces centrally as Jack and Lundstram dropped deep. Of the attackers behind Borré, Daichi Kamada made more impact than Lindstrøm: the Japanese played 13 passes in the attacking third with an 80% success rate and might have scored in the second period when breaking in behind the Rangers defence but lobbing over.

Europa Player of the season: Filip Kostić goals and assists

On the right, meanwhile, Knauff managed 40 carries and registered the game's highest average distance per carry (11.2m) but found a formidable opponent in Calvin Bassey, Rangers' left-sided centre-back who caught the eye with his strength and power, and won four of his five duels.

Overall, this was an occasion where Eintracht found themselves in the unusual position of favourites in recent European ties. They actually attempted fewer passes than on average (369 to 431) on a night when Rangers had more touches and passes and marginally more possession (51.6%). Yet the Bundesliga side had previously won at Real Betis and Barcelona with much less of the ball – 36.6% and 25.6% – and ended up with more chances than Rangers (14 to nine).

UEFA's observers were impressed by how they limited Rangers' threat out wide, with the Glasgow side going more through Aribo in the centre. Tavernier – who ended the competition as its seven-goal top scorer – did not force a save out of Trapp until added time in extra time. And where Kostić produced 20 crosses, Rangers' right-back managed six (with one completed to Kostić's three).

That said, there was praise for Rangers' defensive efforts. Eintracht have been one of the best counterattacking sides in Europe this season and Rangers defended strongly. Goldson's statistics, for example, show 14 duels with an 85.7% success rate and nine aerial duels with an 88.9% success rate.

As mentioned above, the panel also noted Lundstram's defensive awareness. "He played a tactically good game – he did a lot for the team, always covering when Tavernier was attacking high," said one observer of a player who ended the final with 12 recoveries – the joint most by any Rangers player along with Tavernier. On top of that, it is fair to say Rangers, finishing the game strongly, had the clearest chance to win prior to penalties, when Trapp made his crucial save to stop Kent. As Lundstram reflected: "We could've won it, but what a save… what can you do?"

'Proud' Glasner on Frankfurt glory

Coaches' assessments

Olivier Glasner, Frankfurt coach: "Borré was incredible. He worked very hard, even going back. We had intensity in attack, but Rangers defended really well. He attacked the near post and did it very well. It was exactly the game we thought. They are very physical, they play long balls. We had to control the pace. Our penalties were taken very well. We have been practising in the last month."

Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Rangers coach: "It was difficult physically, the players gave everything on the field. We had to replace players because we were tired, actually both teams. In the end, we had a great chance to win: Kent did everything to score. In the end, you have to score those, especially in the last minutes."