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‘ABSOLUTELY ECSTATIC,’ ADMITS SOLO ARIBO

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JOE ARIBO’S spectacular solo strike hauled Rangers back from the brink of Europa League oblivion at Ibrox last night.

Portuguese outfit Braga had bossed most of the last-32 encounter before Ianis Hagi pulled one back

And then Aribo, a 54th-minute substitute for the struggling Glen Kamara, took centre stage to pull it back to level pegging before Hagi’s deflected free-kick gave Steven Gerrard’s side a win that looked highly unlikely for most of the evening.

The midfielder savoured the most important goal of his career to hand the Gers a slender advantage to take to Portugal for the second leg on Wednesday night.

The former Charlton star, signed in the summer on a free transfer, weaved his way past four challenges before sliding the leveller beyond the helpless keeper.

Aribo, speaking to the Evening Times, said: “It’s hard to put it into words. It’s the most important goal of my career to date.

“The boys are just buzzing with the result. We are all absolutely ecstatic. I’ve never experienced anything like the atmosphere tonight. It was like a 12th man. It was a lovely feeling to have the backing of the fans.

“The gaffer told me to be positive when I came off the bench and to take the ball to them and just distract them so they are not having it their own way.

“I’ve never scored a goal like that before. What was in my mind? I just thought I was going to keep going. I got past the first man and there was no turning back. I just had to keep going and I found myself in front of goal- luckily I found the back of the net.

“I actually started the move. I found the first man with my cross and the ball came back to me. I just said let me do what I’m going to do.

“The feeling when the ball hit the net was relief because I was just buzzing that it had gone in and we were level.

“We know how good Braga are and that they have a lot of players who could hurt us. If we were not at it we would have suffered. That’s what happened in the early part of the game, but we need to be on top form over there for the second leg.”

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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