Football dressing rooms are sacred spaces filled with secrets and rites known only to those who have access to them. They have more in common with confessionals than dressing rooms, and in many cases the confessor is the one who receives the title of kit keeper and who, in the narrowest sense, is responsible for bringing out the right shirts, pants, socks. And shoes.
Jimmy Bell was such a man, he worked for Glasgow Rangers for over 30 years. Until his unexpected death on Tuesday. On Thursday night, Rangers faced RB Leipzig in the Europa League semi-finals and they didn’t just want to make up for the 1-0 first leg defeat. But above all, win for Jimmy. They succeeded. Rangers won 3-1 and advanced to the final in Sevilla, where they will face Eintracht Frankfurt on May 18. It will be the most important game for Rangers in exactly 50 years when they won the Cup Winners’ Cup in Barcelona against Dynamo Moscow. For Leipzig, on the other hand, a title option has disappeared. You still have hope of winning the cup. They meet SC Freiburg in the final in Berlin on May 21.
Rangers’ victory was based on the fact that their team had exactly nothing to do with the team that showed up at the Leipzig Arena the previous week. There Glasgow was a kind of Dr. Jekyll, home to the team of Ibrox Stadium coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst was now Mr Hyde. A feverish team which appeared from the first second as if the 50,000 spectators were planting spurs in the flesh of the eleven players in blue jerseys. Even in the VIP box, the upper class roared mad, albeit wearing finely knotted ties, and doing their part to ensure that every duel on the pitch was played out with the unflinching determination associated with tavern brawls.
But while Rangers handled broken glasses, the Leipzig side lined up with torn Tetra-Paks. They committed their first foul in the 35th minute. By then, Rangers were already leading 2-0.
Leipzig’s happiness only lasts ten minutes
The first goal in particular was emotionally powerful. Ryan Kent passes on the left and makes a low pass in the penalty area, where James Tavernier pushes the ball beyond the line at close range (18th). Tavernier had recounted the night before how the Bell equipment man would pull the captain’s armband over his biceps before every game. Six minutes later, it was Glen Kamara who scored from 16 yards to make it 2-0 in the Leipzig goal. RB Leipzig had little more to counter this than shots from their two Spaniards. Once Dani Olmo passed just above (28th), Angeliño, just before the break, shot defender Joe Aribo, literally knocking out a free kick. – Aribo was hit in the face, fell and had to be replaced.
This was the only phase during which coach Domenico Tedesco was able to communicate with his team. In the isolation of their own cabin, the spectators could not be heard. The Leipzig were then able to have longer ball possession phases. But no compelling opportunity developed from that. Their play had long lacked the necessary urgency, determination and precision – until Konrad Laimer was released in the middle in the 70th minute and found himself alone in front of Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor in the penalty area .
Laimer shot the keeper – and was lucky another great opportunity presented itself immediately while he was still busy tearing his hair out. Because after a cross from Angeliño from the left, striker Christopher Nkunku extended – who else? – the ball in the net to make it 2-1 (70th). With this, the knockout round was balanced. But only ten minutes.
A cross from Rangers Kent’s attacking power got longer and longer – and flew past Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi in a high arc. Defender Josko Gvardiol scraped the ball off the line. But he landed on John Lundstram, who fired flat to make it 3-1. It meant the only final – also because, given the death of their kit manager Jimmy Bell, the Rangers professionals were ready to play the game of their lives.