Smith’s final Hampden appearance ends in style

After weeks of anticipation with ‘Old Firm summits’ and fear of another escalation between Lennon and McCoist and/or El Hadj Diouf and Scott Brown, football prevailed as the winner after a thrilling cup final which went into extra time.

Ashleigh McGuinley takes us back to Sunday’s clash at Hampden for the first piece of silverware in this season’s Scottish Football.

Nikica Jelavic was Rangers’ hero as he grabbed an extra-time winner over old firm rivals Celtic in a pulsating Co-operative Insurance Cup final at Hampden.

In a dramatic match credited for being a great advert for Scottish football, Rangers took the lead when Steven Davis tapped home the opening goal in the 23rd minute but Joe Ledley quickly headed Celtic level on the half hour mark.
Three penalty claims – two for rangers in the first half – were ignored by courageous referee Craig Thompson.

The second half was filled with tension with Celtic’s Fraser Forster denying Steven Whittaker and Rangers Neil Alexander smothering a ball in from Ledley.

Extra time was needed with no further goals in normal time allowing Jelavic to fire in off the post seven minutes into extra-time, winning it for Rangers.

In the dying seconds of the game, Celtic left-back Emilio Izaguirre was deservedly shown a straight red card for bringing down Vladimir Weiss.

Rangers’ victory ends Neil Lennon’s hopes of a domestic treble in his first season as Celtic’s manager. However, with each team frantically chasing the Scottish Premier League and Celtic still in the running for the Scottish Cup, each side remains in contention for a double trophy.

The win over Celtic means a 20th trophy win for Rangers’ manager Walter Smith, before he steps down at the end of the season.

After the events of the Scottish Cup replay at Celtic Park earlier in the month, both teams received a visit from Strathclyde police warning them about the consequences of their behaviour on the pitch.

The first moment of controversy came in the 15th minute when referee Craig Thompson was faced with a difficult decision when Mark Wilson went crashing to the ground inside the penalty box after a challenge by Sasa Papac but referee Thompson instinctively denied the first penalty appeal of the match.

Izaguirre was finding some joy down the left side with his cross ins and flicks and left Kyle Lafferty struggling to keep up.

In the 21st minute Celtic nearly took the opening goal when Kris Common’s cross from the left hand side gave Skipper Scott Brown a chance to dive in but his header slipped past the post.

Two minutes later Rangers’ made the break through when Steven Davis made his way by David Forster with a long ball from the 25 yard point.

But seven minutes later at the half-hour mark Celtic equalised when Izaguirre’s deflected cross found Georgios Samaras and Ledley arrived to nod the ball past Alexander.

Rangers thought they had been awarded a penalty a few minutes later when Jelavic went down just inside the box after a tackle from Rogne. Referee Thompson appeared to be awarding the penalty when he pointed to the spot but after some advice from his assistant he issued a free kick to the Parkhead side and booked ger’s striker for simulation.

The first half ended with two strong teams determined to win, not defend.

Rangers started the second half on top form with Forster forced to make a quick dive to save a strong drive in from Whittaker. Ibrox skipper David Weir and Jelavic both threatened the Celtic side by quickly pushing the ball forward into the midfield section.

Celtic were quick to find their feet again and got straight back on the attack leaving Papac inches from scoring an own goal after attempting to clear a ball in from Commons’. However, Ibrox defender was out of danger when the ball swung wide.

The Rangers side tried to claim another penalty in the 60th minute when Wilson appeared to use his hand to block Maurice Edu inside the box but referee Thompson shook his head and signalled play on.

Ki Sung-Yueng and Loovens replaced injured skipper Brown and Rogne while Kyle Hutton came on to replace Madjid Bougherra.

A few moments later, substitute Loovens caused problems for the Rangers’ defence after a Celtic corner gave Ledley a chance from 10 yards only to be smoothly saved by Alexander.

In the final seconds of normal time, Weiss came on to replace Lafferty for extra-time.

At the end of the second half Celtic looked to have the advantage over the injured and tired Ibrox’s side but just five minutes into extra-time Celtic goaly Forster was forced to act quickly to a free-kick from Jelavic, tipping it over the bar into safety.

The Croatian striker did not give up easily and two minutes later returned after pacing out Mulgrew to latch on to a swiftly taken free-kick from Weiss and slipping the shot past Forster, the ball hitting the post before rolling along the goal-line and spinning into the net as Izaguirre desperately tried to clear it.

In the 110th minute Rangers had the chance to seal the deal as Jelavic tried his luck again but was pulled to the ground at the edge of the box by Mulgrew who consequently picked up a yellow card.

El-Hadji Diouff replaced Jelavic and set up Weiss with another Rangers breakaway in the final minutes but the ball was superbly brought to safety by Forster.

Celtic fans prayed for a last minute equaliser but Gary Hooper was denied his moment of glory by a block from Whittaker.

Just minutes before the final whistle, Celtic left back Izaguirre was shown a straight red card for fouling Rangers’ substitute Weiss as he tried to take advantage of an open goal, leaving the desperate Celtic side with just 10 men.

This was the last incident in what proved to be a great spectacle which saw Walter Smith’s side leave Hampden victorious with the first trophy of the season.

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