THIS excruciating penalty shoot-out defeat wasn’t how Rangers’ exhilarating Europa League campaign deserved to end.

Fans of the Ibrox club had jumped on planes, trains and automobiles and flocked to Seville in their tens of thousands this week expecting, not just hoping, to see their heroes triumph and lift the trophy.

Wins over Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade, Braga and RB Leipzig in the knockout rounds this year had built up a seemingly unstoppable momentum and fuelled a feelgood factor in the stands.

But the light blue army who crammed into the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium tonight were to be left devastated after 120 nerve-wracking minutes of football and 10 spot kicks.  

Their German opponents, who finished some distance behind Dortmund and Leipzig in the Bundelsiga this term, had knocked out Real Betis, Barcelona and West Ham themselves and proved to be formidable adversaries.

They fought back well after Joe Aribo had given Rangers a second-half lead and equalised through their own free-scoring forward Rafael Borre.

It went to extra-time and then penalties and when Kevin Trapp saved from Aaaron Ramsey, the Juventus loanee who had come on late, it opened the door for Eintracht.

Filip Kostic and then Borre made no mistake from 12 yards and a 5-4 win was secured.

Since Hibernian took part in the inaugural European Cup back in 1955, only three Scottish clubs have managed to lay their hands on silverware in continental competition.

Celtic won the European Cup in Lisbon in 1967, Rangers lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Barcelona in 1972 and Aberdeen also triumphed in European Cup Winners’ Cup in Gothenburg in 1983.

So Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side were bidding to join some extremely illustrious company. Their gutsy display was typical of them. It was, however, not to be.

Manchester United, Inter Milan, Arsenal, Marseille and Ajax have all been defeated in the final of this tournament in the past five years. So they are in good company. But that fact will be of no consolation to them after such a cruel climax.

Van Bronckhorst named the same team that had started in both of the semi-final matches against Leipzig despite Kemar Roofe being available for the first time since limping off in the Scottish Cup semi-final last month.

Roofe is a far more experienced and dangerous forward than Scott Wright. The lack of game time the Jamaican internationalist has had in recent weeks, though, meant the Dutchman stuck with the Scot.

Sebastian Rode, the Eintracht captain and midfielder, suffered a head injury following a challenge by John Lundstram shortly after that and play was stopped for several minutes while he had a bandage applied to a cut.

Rode’s team mates Daichi Kamada and Djibril Sow could both have opened the scoring when the action resumed. The former failed to shoot early enough after getting on the end of an Almamy Toure delivery and when the ball broke to the latter he had his effort easily saved by Allan McGregor.

Van Bronckhorst switched from a 4-2-3-1 formation when his team was out of possession to a 3-4-3 set-up when they had the ball. But they were unable to either contain their opponents or get forward in numbers during the early exchanges.

McGregor kept Rangers level after Ansgar Knauff had cut inside Borna Barisic and Calvin Bassey and got an attempt away. Nobody picked up Lindstrom at the subsequent corner either. They were fortunate such sloppy play wasn’t punished. 

Aribo, playing as the lone striker in the absence of both Alfredo Morelos and Roofe, curled just wide of the left post in the 24th minute following good work by Wright.

Barisic then picked out John Lundstram with a free-kick and the utility man forced Trapp to tip his header over. Those two opportunities suggested that Rangers were gaining greater control of proceedings. They certainly ended the first-half on a positive note when Ryan Jack went close after some patient build-up play.    

Still, they had lived very dangerously at times and had not produced the sort of sparkling attacking play that had done such damage against Dortmund, Red Star, Braga and Leipzig in the opening 45 minutes. Van Bronckhorst had much to sort out at half-time.     

Eintracht started the second-half far more positively. Jesper Lindstrom had a shot deflected wide and then went to ground in the penalty box following a challenge by Connor Goldson. The match official allowed play to continue after a VAR check.

Rangers, though, regrouped and took the lead in the 57th minute. Goldson headed a Trapp clearance into the Eintracht half and Tuta tripped himself up and fell to the ground as he was attempting to get tyo the ball. Aribo burst forward, kept his composure despite N’Dicka closing in on him and coolly slotted into the net.

Cue utter bedlam inside the ground. The fans who had been concerned after the opportunities their team was conceding erupted. The strike was slightly fortuitous. But nobody was caring. 

Glasner removed Tuta immediately and put on the experienced Makoto Hasebe. The change made a difference. Kamada flicked just over the crossbar and then Borre levelled.

Kostic squared into the six yard box, Goldson failed to clear and Borre edged in front of Bassey and diverted past McGregor. Van Bronckhorst responded by putting on Streven Davis for Jack and Fashion Sakala for Wright. Jens Petter Hauge came on for Lindstrom and slashed just wide, Sakala tested Trapp.

The game went to extra-time and Scott Arfield came on for Glen Kamara. Bassey gifted Borre a chance in the first period when he gave the ball away. But he made amends for his error when he slid in and blocked the shot. James Sands then took over from Aribo.

The tension inside the ground as both sides probed for an opening was palpable and the atmosphere nervous.  Kent tried his luck from long-range only for Trapp to deny him. Ramsey went on for Sakala and Roofe took over from Barisic with five minutes left.

Roofe supplied Kent only for Trapp to block with his leg. Then Rangers were awarded a free-kick within range in the final minute. He got his attempt on target. But the keeper held it.

Trapp also denied Ramsey with his legs in the shoot-out to clinch victory.