The Super Eagles trio of Calvin Bassey, Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun were on the losing side in the UEFA Europa League final as their Rangers lost 5-4 on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Rangers manager Giovanni Van Bronckhorst started Bassey at centre-back and Aribo as the striker, leaving Balogun on the bench for the final in Seville. Aribo thrived in his false nine role, linking play and dropping into dangerous pockets as his side looked to breach their opponents’ defense.
It was not until the second half that the game burst into life in Seville as Rangers took the lead after a defensive blunder in the 57th minute.
A long punt forward by Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp was headed clear by Rangers defender Conor Goldson, only for the German side’s midfielder Djibril Sow to send a header back towards his own goal. The intended recipient, Tuta, slipped and fell face down on the floor, leaving Aribo in possession of the ball outside Frankfurt’s box. The Nigerian midfielder drove the ball into the box and, exuding the calmness of a seasoned centre-forward, slotted a finish beyond the onrushing Trapp. It was Aribo’s first European goal of the season and it came in the Europa League final.
Rangers’ 22-year-old defender Bassey was on hand to make a big block and deny Frankfurt an equaliser moments later, before the German outfit forced their way back into the game in the 69th minute.
Colombian striker Rafael Borre snuck into the space between Bassey and his defensive partner Goldson to divert a cross from Filip Kostic into the back of the net, sending the fans of the German side into raptures. Both sides cancelled each other out for the rest of the 90 minutes and extra-time to send the 2022 Europa League final to a penalty shootout.
Both sides scored all of their kicks until Rangers missed their fourth kick through former Arsenal man Aaron Ramsey, allowing Borre to be the hero once again as he blasted his penalty into the top corner.
Frankfurt have won their first European title since 1980, making them the first German club to win the UEFA Europa League. They are also the first German side not named Bayern Munich to win an European trophy since 1997. Frankfurt have become only the third side to win the UEFA Europa League without losing a single game after Chelsea in 2018-19 and Villarreal in 2020-21.