The location, Ibrox. The occasion, a Europa League Semi-Final. The day, 5th of May 2022. The date, destiny.

One year ago, everything came down to this. As the clock hit 8, Ibrox’s most memorable modern European night was unfolding. RB Leipzig stood in the way of Rangers reaching a major European final. The inevitable pull of history was about to firmly take hold and not let go.

From the depths of 2012, a decade on Rangers came to within penalty kicks of recording one of the great modern sporting achievements. Nine years and a day on from lifting the Third Division title. Propelled by Ibrox and totally infected with belief the squad caught onto magic that carried them so very close to immortality.

No game on the run demonstrated that quite like Rangers 3-1 Leipzig. 

The week prior in Germany, only a late Angelino strike eventually broke down Rangers’ stubborn resolve during the semi-final first leg. Tactical flexibility defined the side’s ability to adapt and overcome opponent after opponent and knowing the full weight of Ibrox was ready to play its part in seven days, that night in Saxony was all about keeping the tie alive. To ensure the stadium had grounds to be expectant the following Thursday.

Heart and Hand’s David Edgar was in the press room that night, quietly brimming with confidence despite defeat.

“Ryan Jack came in with Giovanni van Bronckhorst and I just remember Jack’s total certainty that they’d do the job. It wasn’t cocky, it was just a certainty that they were going to turn it around. I remember speaking to one of their officials and he said ‘How are you feeling’. I said, ‘We will do it next week, you needed more than that tonight’.

“He was dubious but I said ‘You don’t know what you’re walking into’. He replied, ‘We’ve played at grounds like the Signal Iduna and Allianz Arena, and I just replied ‘You don’t know, it doesn’t matter’."

“We’ve done it before, we’re excited to try and do it again,” was Jack’s diplomatic public prediction.

At this juncture in the European run, defying expectations had almost become expected. From that win in Dortmund to completing the job and navigating two more rounds with emphatic home wins over Braga and Red Star Belgrade, no side had yet been able to withstand the force faced in Govan.

Leipzig, like many gone before, were another outfit that fancied itself to be the group capable of defying the trend. The squad, stadium and fans thought differently.

Two days before the home Leipzig tie, Jimmy Bell passed away. The legendary kitman, who’d worked at the club for over 30 years, became a stalwart despite never pulling on a blue jersey.

Described by Michael Beale as a “custodian of the club”, his popularity and sheer importance within the building was reflected by the reaction from all connected to Rangers.

“Yesterday wasn’t about keeping spirits high, we were all very shocked at the news. It was a hard day for all of us,” Van Bronckhorst said speaking about Bell in his pre-match press conference, at a time when the strength of his leadership was so evident.

“Everyone was really down as you can imagine. Yesterday we didn’t do a lot, we were all at the training ground but of course, the atmosphere was very down and still in shock. We didn’t have the feeling that we had to keep our spirits high yesterday.

“We talked about him, shared stories of him. Today we look ahead to Leipzig tomorrow. It was a really big game already but we are very determined to go out and give everything we can to make everyone proud, especially Jimmy.”

“The character of my players is the best I’ve seen in any teams I’ve coached.”

The group and all associated with the club were rocked by the news, only months on from the loss of Walter Smith. And it left them all the more determined to do their old friend proud.

Calvin Bassey was one of many who defined the Road to Seville. Evolving from a player who looked lost in the group stage at centre-back to dominating the position each round. It was an uncharted rise for the youngster signed on a cross-border fee the season prior. A club record sale to Ajax would follow that summer.

Like everyone else in the squad, the death of Jimmy was so difficult to deal with. Before, during and after the 90 minutes.

READ MORE: Jimmy Bell remembered: The Rangers kitman who became Ibrox icon

“It was hard. It was so emotional. Honestly, it was such an emotional experience and it was for him. With him not being there was so surreal,” Bassey tells the Rangers Review, reflecting on the game a year on.

“I remember walking into the changing room and it just didn’t feel right. Normally you’d see Jimmy because he’d always be there when you walked in and you’d give him a little hug and have a bit of banter but he just wasn’t there and it just felt weird but I focused in on Jimmy and I was like, ‘Do you know what, everything I’m doing is for you’.

“He was looking down on us 100 per cent. I felt like he was watching over us and pushing us through. They had one of his favourite quotes stuck up on the wall and I remember Gio saying, ‘This is for Jimmy’.

READ MORE: Rangers' Borussia Dortmund demolition: The inside story

“All of us felt energy as soon as he said that and we were just like, ‘We have to win this’. But we knew deep down in our hearts, no matter what happened, if we had lost the game Jimmy would’ve been proud of us. All he ever wanted was for us to go out and give 100 per cent. To be able to get the win and go to Seville was unbelievable.

“It was such an emotional night but it was mixed emotions. You were so happy to be going to Seville but at the same time it was like our best mate wasn’t there to experience it.”

Striding out to warm up in a stadium spilling over with energy, Connor Goldson loudly proclaimed, “I don’t care who they are, what their name is, what they’re worth. They haven’t got a team like us. Come on, no respect. Let’s go.”

Leipzig’s squad was stacked with stars. One of the great young defenders in world football Josko Gvardiol, seemingly Bayern Munich-bound Konrad Laimer, Christopher Nkunku and Dani Olmo to name but a few. Keeping that talent quiet while clawing back a lead was going to require monstrous effort and resolve.

Walking out to the Europa League theme tune and deafening noise, a Tifo display adorned the Broomloan Road stand with a stunning Barcelona 1972-inspired display. The words at the bottom of the stand read “The deeds of those who were before us are our inspiration."

Having answered the call to ‘Make us Dream’ in previous rounds, the task was now making history. 

Lining up in a 5-4-1, without a recognised striker, Van Bronckhorst once again had to dig into his tactical box of tricks to provide a platform for victory.

Rangers played over the Leipzig press instead of trying to progress through the thirds, attempting to isolate Ryan Kent on the left wing and free up James Tavernier to attack the back post on the right.

With John Lundstram situated in defence alongside Connor Goldson and Calvin Bassey, Glen Kamara and Scott Wright played in support of Joe Aribo up top, while Ryan Jack held court in the middle.

The hosts wanted to trigger the press, attack directly and avoid the risk of turnovers in the centre, negating Leipzig from advancing through quick transitions.

Without Alfredo Morelos to hold the ball up, Kamara would rotate forwards at points to try and offer an out ball and access the final third, using his back-to-goal qualities. It was a ploy that played out perfectly for the first goal, scored, of course, by Tavernier stealing in at the back post following excellent work by Kent on the left.

“I saw Raz in the same position as the first leg and I thought I’m getting myself in here,” a jubilant Tavernier would later tell BT Sport.

When Kent pulled the ball wide from a similar position the week prior, the captain kicked the post in frustration for failing to gamble.

This time, shot or cross, it didn’t matter. The scores were level.

Six minutes later it was two. After Wright regained the ball high up the pitch Aribo punched possession into the centre and there to find the far corner was Kamara. His celebration, removing a black armband to commemorate Jimmy Bell and kissing it, captured the night’s feeling in its totality. It will always be a lasting image.

“In a stadium emotionally charged it takes the calmness of a stroke of Glen Kamara’s left boot to caress the ball into the corner of the net,” BT Sport commentator Rory Hamilton roared into his mic as Kamara ran off in celebration. “This place is made for special moments like that.”

That line is one of many uttered by Hamilton now synonymous with last season’s run. Against Leipzig especially, the coverage couldn’t have brought those watching on TV closer.

“Throughout my career, I’ve always been told to get the big moments right,” Hamilton tells the Rangers Review on the memorable moments his voice is forever associated with.

“If you get them right, what you say the rest of the time, that won’t be written in history - it’s the big moments you need to get right.

Rangers Review:

“I often get asked about how much you can prepare. It’s more about preparing yourself mentally in the days leading up. Sometimes I take myself off to hike beforehand so you’ve got all day with nothing else to think about other than the game.

“I play through scenarios in my head, ‘What if Roofe scores in the 93rd minute and it takes Rangers to Seville’, ‘What happens if Tavernier scores after 20 seconds’?

“It’s not to then get home and write that down in my notes. You can’t prepare for life that way. But you can almost prepare mentally for when something might happen, you’ve already thought of it in your mind and you think about how that can impact what you might say. Not necessarily the words, just the emotions at that stage.”

Ibrox was emotionally charged and Kamara’s composure in that moment held all the more poignancy. There were more big moments on the way.

The stadium was now in party mode. “We’re on our way to Seville, we’re on our way” only stopped to appease the “Glasgow Rangers” chorus chanted at each turn in this run.

It should have been three when Tavernier headed the ball into the path of Aribo, who could only scuff his shot from close range. Leipzig, like so many sides before them, were spooked.

Guido Schafer, a formal professional footballer and now the chief reporter with Leipziger Volkszeitung, was in attendance that night covering the game. He’s followed Leipzig all over Europe and sampled Germany’s best atmospheres many times but none compared to what he would encounter in Glasgow that night.

“I wrote an article two or three days before the game saying, 'Some stadiums are able to win matches. The spectators at Ibrox are game-changers.'

“Leipzig were confident but they all knew to expect a special atmosphere. It was the best feeling I’ve ever had in a stadium, it was an eruption. Like a hurricane. I think the atmosphere was so good because the fans' love is so big for Rangers. They celebrate every foul and tackle.

“After, those associated with the club said it wasn’t our best night but Rangers on a good night, with this crowd, in this stadium are not easy to beat. It wasn’t a sensation they’d experienced.”

Turning to this writer after the second goal, another member of the German press pack said simply “That was like an earthquake”.

@therangersreview It’s 2-0 Rangers! #rangers #rangersfc #football #footballtiktok #ibrox #europaleague ♬ original sound - The Rangers Review

Rangers historian and podcaster Martyn Ramsey was also in the gantry, watching with wide eyes.

“A well-worn football cliche is equating matches with boxing matches,” he says.

“That fits that bill quite well in this case. The game was like that. There was the early rounds of scoping each other out. This wasn’t Braga where Rangers felt that could overpower the opposition. Right from the off it was cagey. Then, when they got momentum, they capitalised on it.

“There was a potential knockout blow when Nkunku equalised. That felt like it was coming. It was a blow but I didn’t think ‘Oh well that’s it’ I didn’t feel or fear the worst. I just felt there was one knockout blow in the game. You’re in the final round and thinking who is going to go, who is going to land? When the jaw was exposed, Rangers hit hardest.”

READ MORE: Rangers' Borussia Dortmund demolition: The inside story

Step forward John Lundstram.

Like Bassey and Tavernier, Lundstram defined this run. It was only fitting that the scriptwriter had him as the main player.

Nkunku’s equaliser from Angelino’s cross was a reminder of the quality Van Bronckhorst’s men were battling to keep quiet. It punctured the air and for a moment, Seville felt very far away again. Had the dream been snatched away? Apparently not.

Following a deep free-kick, Kent picked the ball up on the left wing and, embodying the incision he showed throughout every European game that season, drove one way, chopped the other and stood the ball up towards the back post. With the delivery threatening to drop in, Gvardiol headed it off the line, straight into the path of our protagonist.

Lundstram strode onto the ball before running to the fans with arms flailing, catching the eyes of a supporter whose eyes were simply filled with disbelief.

"Look at Ibrox stadium, listen to the noise. Rangers might just be on their way,"

Surviving the remaining 10 minutes plus stoppage time, Hamilton could call time on the most famous of nights, with a monologue that was fit for the occasion.

“Rangers are going to the Europa League Final. Get ready Seville, this time it’s the other half of Glasgow who are on their way. Pack your bags Rangers fans you’re off to sunny Spain. Generations pass without experiencing a feeling like this. But Rangers have done it. 1961, 67, 72, 2008, Rangers are going to their fifth European final. 50 years on from Barcelona and Dynamo Moscow when Rangers beat German opponents 3-1 in the semi-final in Bayern Munich, Rangers are heading to Seville, back to Spain, by the wings of Walter and with the spirit of Jimmy Bell in their hearts. To honour those who forged the path and create new legends of their own, this has been the most sensational European run. Rangers against all the odds from the lows of Malmo to defeats in the opening two group games, this is a squad that when they are asked to give their all, boy do they do it. And the hero of the hour is John Lundstram, but out there, in truth, heroes to a man. And Rangers and Scottish football will have a team in a major European final from the bottom, from the depths of the Scottish leagues, Rangers are back on the grand, grand stage. The full-time score at Ibrox Stadium - Rangers 3 - RB Leipzig 1."

“The production wants to stay with the players on the pitch and the emotion of the gantry for as long as possible,” Hamilton says reflecting on the lines uttered as bewildered, exhausted players looked up to witness what they’d achieved; absolutely unconfined noise, disbelief and joy of the highest order across all four corners of the stadium. They were experiencing the history they’d just created.

“There’s a different energy staying with the commentator on the gantry compared to going back to the studio. It can be quite tricky, you might run out of things to say but that was a night where you didn’t, you take the handbrake off and go with it because it was such a big achievement.

“As I’ve touched on before, it was so emotional in the stadium, so energised, the music started and you could just see exactly what it meant to Rangers fans."

Cue ‘I’m Feeling It‘.

“When the whistle went, the 20 minutes after it will live with me forever. It was an explosion of nothing but pride and joy,” Edgar continues.

“A lot of stuff came home at one point. You remember 2012, the title, everyone was singing and bouncing. It was football in its purest, rawest and most emotional form.

“Everyone as one in that moment, as a football fan that’s what you’re always after being in sync with strangers and loved ones. It was the most special night that stadium has ever known,” Ramsay adds.

When Smith’s Rangers reached the final in 2008 it was achieved in Florence. This was a moment for everyone to share together at Ibrox.

Jumping up and down himself on the BT Sport podium to ‘John Lundstram is the best on Earth’, Ally McCoist declared: “I’m absolutely buzzing. I can’t tell you, look at the supporters. That’s as good an atmosphere as I’ve heard anywhere. I know Gio wanted the supporters to play the 12th man, not only that they were the 13th and the 14th, absolutely superb from start to finish.

“Nine years ago we were playing East Stirling, in the third division. We’re in a European final.

"Walter and Jimmy up there will be having a wee dram and a cuddle because that is absolutely magic."

This was an opportunity for the group of players to celebrate their success with fans, a luxury the pandemic had not afforded them. Families could be picked out in the crowd and a long period of celebration enjoyed.

“I say well done to the stadium, it's the best I’ve ever seen,” Leipzig manager Domenico Tedesco conceded in his post-match press conference.

“We toasted on Jimmy’s life, achievements and what he’s done for this club. We will miss him for the rest of our lives,” Van Bronckhorst added in his. Rangers had achieved the seemingly impossible.

Dortmund was incredible, Red Star pulsating, Braga exhilarating. Leipzig? Better than them all. Indescribable. No words written here or elsewhere will be able to truly do that night justice, only grab at the coattails of the outpouring of emotion Ibrox bore witness to. And although somewhat cliché to speak of the role of the crowd, or the atmosphere, this was something quite special and totally unique.

Were Leipzig, a team littered with internationals spooked?

Simply, you cannot prepare for a night like this, because none of the players on that pitch had ever played a game quite like it. They were Guinea Pigs, the first 22 men exposed to that collective atmosphere and energy.

It reminds us however globalised football becomes, however many states buy clubs, however much disparity is lodged between the haves and have-nots, this game will always belong to every one of us. You can’t do anything to buy a night or foster an atmosphere like that.

Rangers’ European journey thrilled, surprised and consumed a worldwide audience. From when it really woke up against Dortmund in February, refusing to let go of its ever-tightening grip, to all those Ibrox nights, culminating against Leipzig.

And while penalties would deny the trophy travelling back, there will always be Leipzig. When Ibrox lived, breathed and created history.