“What a goal that is from John Lundstram. Dortmund are in the eye of a Rangers storm. It’s dreamland in Deutschland.”

There are 48 minutes on the big screen at Westfalenstadion which reads Borussia Dortmund 0-3 Rangers. Only 500 away supporters are in the stadium and they’re going absolutely wild. Elsewhere, all around the world, watching fans are locking eyes with others to ensure what they’re seeing is indeed actually happening. Caught in a headrush of disbelief.

The French newspaper L’Equipe called it an “attacking festival” of football, German outlet Die Bild said Dortmund made a “fool of themselves” while their manager Marco Rose, slightly more diplomatically, said his team “did not do their jobs”.

But this night will always belong to Rangers, not Dortmund.

This is the inside story of one of this famous club’s most famous results, a year to the day it happened.

It is told from the press box, the stands and the dressing room.

It’s February and Rangers are fighting on all fronts. They’re trying to recover from a bruising Old Firm defeat and more dropped points domestically. Giovanni van Bronckhorst has shaken up his starting 11 in a bid for balance. The previous weekend brought a trip to part-time Annan Athletic’s 2500-capacity Galabank home in the Scottish Cup. On Thursday, it’s Borussia Dortmund away.

Around this time, Europe was far from front and centre because getting past Dortmund felt, in a word, unlikely. This squad had punched above its weight consistently on the continent but this was a step up, against a team dropping down from the Champions League. The Germans were favourites to win the entire competition and boasted names such as Erling Haaland, Jude Bellingham, Marco Reus and more. 

Despite backing from the bookies, all was not well.

“Things had gone wrong in the build-up to the game,” says Uli Hesse. A journalist, author and long-time Borussia Dortmund season ticket holder.

“Dortmund had been knocked out by St Pauli in the DFB Pokal and recently conceded five at home against Bayer Leverkusen. Everyone expected them to go through in the Champions League having won the first two group games but instead, a third-placed finish meant it was Europa League football.

“There was a general feeling that ‘now we’re here, let’s win the whole thing’. The club has never won this trophy and lost the final in 2002. It wasn’t ideal circumstances but this was a chance to finally win the tournament.

“There are people who say one of Dortmund’s major problems is that they still haven’t got over Jurgen Klopp. Everything is compared to his era and only major trophies will help that.

“They’ve won the domestic cup without Klopp but there is a feeling Dortmund need a big trophy to properly move on and get rid of the ghost so to speak. The Europa League represented a big chance to do that.”

The Germans were in it to win it but on the other side of the tie, across the water in Glasgow, quiet confidence was starting to build.

Haaland was seemingly set to miss the tie through injury and the formidable Westfalenstadion atmosphere would be hamstrung by a reduced capacity. Just 10,000 filtered into a ground that normally hosts over 81,000.

Tim Kusche writes for Dortmund fanzine Schwatzgelb and was at both games in the two-legged tie. He believes the absence of that home atmosphere was significant, especially when compared to what a full Ibrox served up subsequently.

“In Germany, the ultras scene is very important in the stadium. During the Covid era, there was no organised support which had a big impact. That was the downfall of our atmosphere at home given the reduced numbers.

“The crowd in Germany is different. In Britain, there are loud and quiet moments. When Rangers scored at home it was one of the loudest moments I’ve ever experienced in a stadium. Normally in Germany, there is constant singing but without the ultras, there was no real atmosphere.”

On the pitch, Rose’s side weren't functioning all that well as a unit. Sources say that the more Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his staff watched their opponents, the more they believed a result was possible, if still remaining some distance from being probable. Dortmund though, were not without weaknesses. There were visible gaps in their armour that Rangers could target should the men in light blue perform to their top level and keep the back door shut.

The task for Van Bronckhorst and his staff was translating that belief into his group of players and tailoring a game plan which exploited the correct avenues.

This was the first European game that the squad properly worked with the Dutchman's methods and tactical plans. The build-up to his Ibrox dugout debut against Sparta Prague came just days after being appointed. Although changes were immediately obvious then, the preparation was in no way as detailed and meticulous as the lead-up to Dortmund.

A dressing room source emphasised the extent of tactical information handed out to players leading into the game and noted the group’s growing belief that a result was achievable. The squad were perfectly briefed on how they could hurt Dortmund and well-prepared for different eventualities, depending on the hosts' own course of action. 

It was also suggested that the freshness of ideas and a new approach to European ties, building on all the good work done and experience gained in recent years, collided at just the right moment.

There was something in the air.

On the day of the game, the player’s pre-match meeting was longer than usual.

The game plan presented was focused on three key themes. Being brave on the ball, exploiting the spaces when Dortmund jumped forward and manipulating pressure using ball circulation and switches of play.

Van Bronckhorst and his staff’s methodology came into its own during the Road to Seville. They could react to the opposition and play into space, unlike domestic encounters. 

Despite not being at their best, Dortmund’s quality remained obvious. Their starting 11 included two World Cup winners in Mats Hummels and Reus, the world's most exciting young midfielder in Bellingham, Manuel Akanji, now of Man City, and many more notable threats. 

The visitors had Scott Arfield tuck in from the right to offer an extra passing option through the pitch and run centrally. Ryan Kent remained wide on the other flank while John Lundstram and Ryan Jack played in a double-pivot behind Joe Aribo.


Rangers were set up to invite pressure, circulate the ball in deep areas and then spring attacks by exploiting gaps in the defence. Changing the speed of play at the right time as Dortmund tried to jump up and be aggressive.

After briefing the players with information earlier in the day, Van Bronckhorst’s dressing room message was more simple and focused on mentality. The group had the tools and information to make this trip successful, now it was about believing a result was possible.

This blend of confidence and perfect preparation was visible from the start. Rangers were aggressive with their positioning, confident in possession and benefitted from the pre-scripted patterns rehearsed before the game.

They played side to side, triggering Dortmund’s press before moving forwards, switching play to the far side and targeting gaps in the backline. In possession, things came together.

This clip below, ending in a Borna Barisic chance, shows these principles in practice. Play is moved to the right, quickly switched away from all the Dortmund bodies before open space is attacked on the left.

Some luck was required. A mistimed press with the game at 0-0 should’ve seen the visitors fall behind. Dortmund danced through the pitch seamlessly and Bellingham’s cutback somehow wasn’t converted by Reus on the six-yard line. BT Sport’s feed subsequently cut to Haaland in the stands. Would he have taken that chance? Almost definitely.

But the visitors were also enjoying moments, their attacks full of promising potential. Calvin Bassey was an insurance policy if any of the home side’s runners broke in behind. Jack and Lundstram excelled in the middle throughout and possession was clean. Space was there to be attacked. 

It would be set pieces that earned a 2-0 lead by half-time, however. This was another area the visitors had identified as a potential vulnerability to exploit leading up to the tie.

Although towards the end of Van Bronckhorst’s time in Glasgow attacking set-pieces faced justified criticism, the side did score 15 times in the league last season from this area, while also finding the net from corners against Dortmund and Red Star Belgrade.

Roy Makaay was responsible for offensive set-pieces at this point and a specific right-sided routine, worked on in the build-up to this tie, paid off spectacularly.

Connor Goldson and Aribo were both tasked with targeting the front post, while Bassey acted as a blocker to allow his centre-back partner a free run at goal.

Meanwhile, Alfredo Morelos was primed to steal in around the back, moving behind Julian Brandt.

The first corner of the game was easily cleared, but notice Morelos is free with Brandt ball-watching. This was a sign of things to come.

The penalty materialised after Bassey blocked Dan-Axel Zagadou, marking the run of Goldson, allowing the vice-captain to head the ball onto the retreating defender’s arm.

James Tavernier, who delivered incredible performances consistently over the run, would put his side ahead from the spot.

And Morelos’ strike saw Aribo flick on at the front post perfectly, with Rangers’ No.20 striking third time lucky at the back post.

In open play and during dead ball situations, the away side were rewarded for their fastidious preparation. There was, however, still a long way to go.

Most would’ve expected the visitors, 2-0 up at half-time, to spend the break constructing a defensive roadblock, but there was more to come. Watching along in disbelief with the rest of us was Kenny Miller, analysing the tie for BT Sport.

“There was no way that even the most positive of Rangers fans would’ve expected to win and secondly, get through in the tie. They were playing a European superpower, that’s what Dortmund are.

“To go to Dortmund and win is one thing, to deserve to win is another. It was an incredible performance. The quickfire goals went a long, long way to giving them a chance of earning a result. They came out flying in the second half, and Lundstram’s was the goal of the night.”

Step forward Ryan Kent. His quality had threatened to bubble over all game and in one sweeping action, he single-handily sliced open the home defence, weaving his way through two challenges before laying the ball into Lundstram’s path. His ‘weaker’ left foot found the far corner with pace.

It was a perfect outplaying of the attacking ideas scripted during that long pre-match meeting and drawn up in the weeks prior. Attracting Dortmund to one side before switching play to the other and attacking quickly. Being brave on the ball and not conceding territory.

“That was the best-worked goal on the night and throughout Kent was sensational,” adds Miller.

“You can tell when an opponent thinks a player is dangerous because three or four start to get attracted to them as they pick up the ball, because of the threat possessed. That happens to Kent and then he lays the ball into the path of Lundstram using the space he himself has created.

“Football is about taking your moments and that’s what Rangers did that night.”

At this point, it’s getting ridiculous. Somewhere, up in the gods, is Martyn Ramsay. An author and podcaster of Rangers history, he is witnessing a primary account.

“It was surreal because a stadium so famous for its noise was still loud but not what legend tells you it should be, because of Covid restrictions. There was a surreal element all the way through and that, well, that just increased as the game wore on.

“Lundstram’s goal was the pinnacle of that. I had very little sleep because of flight times so I was looking around at others in the press box just checking in. Was I seeing what I was actually watching? I had to take pictures of the scoreboard.”

Alex Rae was also situated in the press box on co-comms for BT Sport.

“Going over there you were thinking ‘if Rangers can just stay in the tie’ because of the name you’re facing. I wasn’t sure how they’d approach it but they got after Dortmund, pressing them high. You’re thinking Rangers could be leaving themselves wide open with the personnel that Dortmund have. Instead, they find themselves 3-0 up.

“There was a pocket of Rangers fans over to my right-hand side and as it goes 3-0 you’re thinking ‘this is astonishing’. When Lundstram scores that worldie you’re thinking ‘this is ridiculous, this isn’t happening’! It was four goals in something like 20 minutes and they could’ve had one or two more."

Bellingham would quickly pull one back as Rangers fell into the trap of conceding space and dropping deep, losing their shape for one of the first times all evening. 

Perhaps they themselves were dizzy from the heights their performance was hitting. Bellingham’s goal was a reminder of the quality Van Bronckhorst’s side managed to keep quiet for the majority of both legs.

A three-goal deficit was soon re-established. Morelos, who terrorised the Dortmund defence all night, saw his shot-cum-cross turned into the net by Zagadou after Kent regained possession by the touchline. It was further proof that attack was the best form of defence on the night, more evidence of the game plan which focused on hitting Dortmund where it hurt.

Miller played in a strike partnership with Morelos for a year and has a theory as to why these European nights have so often offered up the best version of the Colombian.

“He looks at these situations against a back line on his own and it’s a challenge. It’s him against them. When he’s fully on it, he normally rises to it. Over the years in European competitions at the club, he’s always done that.

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“That night in Dortmund, like so many others, he ran them ragged. Think of Feyenoord away, Porto away.

"When you look at the club's all-time record European appearance holders, plenty of members of that squad are right up there and Morelos, of course, is the top scorer. They had huge European experiences heading into that game and a belief they belonged there."

Rae also highlights that experience as a vital component of the win.

“This was the culmination of a group of players who had progressed year on year. In the knock-out rounds of previous years, they’d hit a ceiling. But if you look at the team that season, there were guys starting to rack up so many appearances at that level. They became more comfortable on that stage. You hit players at a perfect time and they were going into rounds thinking ‘we have a chance here’."

5-1 was possible at a point.

Aribo struck an effort beyond the post as Rangers again streamed forward in a four-against-three. They were brave and brilliant on the ball all night. There was absolutely nothing smash-and-grab about this result.

Raphael Guerreiro would have the final say with a venemous strike from distance. It was another reminder of the level of technical quality Rangers were facing.

Where does this rank overall? Martyn Ramsey, there to witness it, can’t remember many nights like this.

"It is Rangers’ greatest away result in Europe. There haven’t been many classics to choose from, I’ll be honest. PSV in terms of importance would rank up there recently.

"You think of the sensational nature of the result and some of the players on show for the Dortmund team. But it was the way we handled the game. We weren’t to know then what it would lead to.

"There was a maturity and clear purpose about that Rangers team that night that felt different and would increasingly feel different as that run went on.”

Borussia Dortmund 2-4 Rangers will forever be famous. Accounts of the night will always be fabled.

This, like the ensuing run, isn’t supposed to happen in a globalised footballing world with the increasing disparity between rich and poor. But Rangers had no regard for outside expectations that night in Germany. The belief built up in the weeks prior met magically with a battle plan scripted and performed to the letter.

This was to be the first special night of many. There was plenty of dreaming still to be done.