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Brilliant Aribo, solid Bassey lift Rangers to first European semifinal in 14 years

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The Gers are two games away from the final of the continent’s second-tier club competition after sweeping aside Portuguese opposition on Thursday

 Joe Aribo provided two crucial assists while Calvin Bassey and Leon Balogun played their parts as Rangers battled to a thrilling 3-2 aggregate win over Sporting Braga to book a place in the semifinal of the Europa League.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men suffered a slender 1-0 loss in Portugal last week, but the Scottish champions fought out a 3-1 home win after extra time to advance to their first European semifinal in 14 years.

Rangers enjoyed a perfect start at the Ibrox, many thanks to Joe Aribo. The Super Eagles midfielder showed great vision to send a precise pass to James Tavernier, and the skipper showed brilliant composure inside the box to bury the ball into the bottom right corner.

The Light Blues fans had barely finished celebrating that goal when Kemar Roofe headed in a second for the home side, but it was ruled out for a handball after a VAR review.

Tavernier added a second from the penalty spot for the hosts just before the halftime whistle, with the visitors reduced to ten men with the sending off of Tormena.

Aribo should have netted a third shortly after the restart, but the Nigerian midfielder’s rocket of a shot flew just wide of the left post after he had raced through the centre to the edge of the box.

Rangers had several chances to kill off the tie, including another Roofe goal ruled off for offside, but they failed to capitalise. And they would rue all those misses as a David Carmo header in the 88th minute halved the deficit for Braga on the night and put them levelled on aggregate.

Nigerian defender Calvin Bassey had been solid for the Gers until that point. Still, Giovanni van Bronckhorst hesitated little before sending in Leon Balogun in place of Borna Borisic to firm up the defence.

There were to be no more goals before the referee signaled for the end of normal time, though.

But Aribo’s quality soon had Rangers up 3-1 in the match as the former Charlton Athletic man put the ball on a plate for Kemar Roof to score with a simple close-range finish midway through the first half of extra time.

And the night got better for the Gers as moments later, Braga were reduced to nine men as Iuri Medeiros received a second yellow card for unsportsmanlike behaviour.

Braga could not conjure any late drama, though, as Rangers sealed a place in the Europa League semifinal.