Rangers ended a turbulent week with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Hearts in the Scottish Cup final after extra time at Hampden Park.
The Light Blues were shaken by the 5-4 penalty shoot-out defeat in the Europa League final against Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday night and went into extra time again late in regular time thanks to Craig Gordon’s save with his foot against Joe Aribo.
The Ibrox side dug deep again, however, and the Gorgie captain failed to parry a thunderbolt from Ryan Jack after 94 minutes before substitute Scott Wright fired a second later – three minutes later – to send the trophy back to Ibrox for the first time bring since 2009.
Giovanni Van Bronckhorst lifted the trophy in 2000 while playing with Rangers and won his first trophy as Ibrox manager after replacing Steven Gerrard last November and it was well deserved.
In the run-up there had been questions about the Rangers’ reaction to their European disappointment.
120 grueling minutes in the Seville heat seemed to hurt some Gers players – Borna Barisic was injured – and Van Bronckhorst made five substitutions to freshen things up.
Manchester United winger on loan Amad Diallo made a surprise start, goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin continued his winning streak of playing in every Scottish Cup game this season, while Steven Davis, Scott Arfield and Leon Balogun also returned.
Jambos defender Craig Halkett and Ibrox-bound John Souttar both returned to the Hearts defense after ankle injuries – they were brought on from the bench in last week’s Premiership defeat to the same opponents – while attacker Liam Boyce was recovering from a groin strain .
Referee Willie Collum’s whistle punctuated the opening minutes and – amid a string of fouls – Hearts midfielder Peter Haring received a caution for challenging defender Calvin Bassey.
In the 10th minute, Gorgie’s loanee forward Ellis Simms slipped in to smash a Boyce cross into the outside of McLaughlin’s post and behind.
The Light Blues found most joy on the right side but failed to capitalize.
Arfield’s shot from 16 yards off a Davis pass was saved by Gordon before winger Kent twisted a shot wide.
In the 37th minute, Aribo’s near-post header from a Bassey cross just didn’t have enough contact to bother Gordon.
For his part, Diallo hit too many moments later on Bassey’s cross and the ball flew over the bar, leaving the first half goalless.
In the 57th minute, Gordon rushed from his goal to thwart Kent, who had been clinging to a long ball from Diallo who was soon booked for a foul on Boyce before being replaced by Wright.
The prospect of an extension grew stronger.
Jack and Glen Kamara replaced Davis and Arfield with Hearts’ Josh Ginnelly for Barrie Mackay – Andy Halliday had previously replaced Boyce.
Balogun headed a James Tavernier corner just over the goal after 83 minutes as Rangers finished strongly and Gordon’s instinctive save with his foot from Aribo’s shot saved the game in the closing seconds before Wright hit the bar with a header from a Tavernier free-kick .
Aribo headed a Bassey cross early in overtime, but Jack’s 22-yard drive after Halkett cleared a corner gave Gordon no chance as the ball flew past him and went off the bar.
Then, in a quick Gers break three minutes later, Wright took a well-weighted pass from Kent on the break and drilled a shot deep past Gordon to once again spark wild scenes of joy in the blue half of the stadium.
Gordon made a save from Rangers substitute Fashion Sakala in the second extra period of overtime before number one goalkeeper Allan McGregor, 40, took over from McLaughlin in the dying seconds, presumably for a bye appearance.
Gordon had time to make more saves against Kent and Kamara before the trophy was adorned with blue, white and red ribbons for the first time in 13 years.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/rangers-bounce-back-from-europa-league-heartbreak-to-claim-scottish-cup-after-extra-time-41674287.html Rangers recover from Europa League heartbreak and lift Scottish Cup after extra time