A late Angelino wonder strike gave Leipzig a crucial 1-0 win over Rangers in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final tie.
Leipzig enjoyed the majority of the possession in the first half, but weren’t clinical enough to open the scoring.
The best chance of the half came to the red-hot Christpher Nkunku. Borna Barisic failed to clear a cross which bounced over the head of the Rangers defender and fell to Dani Olmo, who played it back across goal for Nkunku, but the Frenchman fluffed his lines at the pivotal moment before Calvin Bassey denied him at the second time of asking.
Connor Goldson made a fantastic last-ditch tackle to deny Konrad Laimer as he slipped through the defence and prepared to pull the trigger, but the centre-back got across quickly to produce a perfectly-timed crunching challenge.
Rangers’ best chance of the game came minutes into the second half when Ryan Kent picked up the ball and drove towards the Leipzig defence. He beat his man before unleashing a strike towards the back post, which sliced across goal and only needed a touch from the oncoming Joe Aribo in the middle, but he couldn’t latch onto the ball which went behind for a goal kick.
With 20 minutes to play and the scores still level, Nkunku wasted a huge opportunity to put Leipzig ahead. He picked the ball up inside the box, cleverly took it around Allan McGregor and with the goal gaping, fired his effort high and wide.
With five minutes to go, Leipzig had a corner which was headed away but only as far as Angelino just outside the box, who struck the ball on the volley with perfect execution, nestling beyond McGregor in the bottom left corner.
Leipzig held on to take a 1-0 lead to Ibrox next Thursday.
TALKING POINT – NO DISASTER FOR RANGERS
Rangers are still well in this tie, and the stage is set at Ibrox next Thursday for a feisty encounter. There are fewer grounds in Europe teams would prefer to go to and defend a 1-0 lead in the second leg of a European semi-final, and Rangers fans will have a huge part to play. It was a moment of brilliance from Angelino to put Leipzig ahead, and Giovanni van Bronckhorst will be pleased with a lot of what he saw tonight.
They’ll need to be more clinical in the second leg, but they’ll likely have more options up front in a week’s time. They will also need to be slightly more assured at the back. Despite holding Leipzig off for so long, Nkunku had two great chances to put the hosts ahead, and considering his form it’s a big shock he didn’t put at least one of his efforts away.
MAN OF THE MATCH – KONRAD LAIMER (LEIPZIG)
He caused problems all night for Rangers, and was probably Leipzig’s brightest spark going forward. The German side were largely dominant, especially in the first half, enjoying 70% possession overall, with Laimer pulling the strings throughout.
Rangers will have to be wary of him and teammate Nkunku in the second leg, with the pair linking up well during the game, but just unable to find the right final ball or strike in the final third to open the scoring.
RB LEIPZIG: Gulacsi 6, Gvardiol 6, Henrichs 7, Halstenberg 7, Laimer 8, Adams 7, Klostermann 6, Angelino 7, Olmo 6, Nkunku 5, Szoboszlai 5
Subs: Silva 6, Forsberg 6, Poulsen N/A, Mukiele N/A
RANGERS: McGregor 7, Tavernier 6, Goldson 7, Bassey 6, Barisic 6, Jack 6, Kamara 7, Lundstrum 6, Kent 7, Aribo 7, Wright 5
Subs: Arfield N/A, Sands N/A, Sakala 6
16’ – HUGE CHANCE LEIPZIG! Barisic fails to clear a cross which bounces over the head of the Rangers defender and falls to Olmo’s feet on the far side, who plays it back in, putting it on a plate for Nkunku in front of goal, but he fluffs his lines.
49’ – RANGERS’ BEST MOMENT OF THE GAME! Kent breaks forward and beats his man on the left before unleashing a strike towards the back post, it slices across goal and only needed a touch from Aribo, but he can’t get there and the ball goes behind for a goal kick.
71’ – HUGE, HUGE CHANCE MISSED! Nkunku takes it round McGregor and blasts it high and wide! Incredible!
85’ – GOAL! LEIPZIG 1-0 RANGERS (ANGELINO): What a strike! Angelino fires a volley from outside the box into the bottom left corner!