The veteran Argentinian scored twice, brilliantly set up the first and was also involved in the second goal as he produced a performance which belied his 35 years.

Skipper Barry Ferguson was also a key man in the first trophy triumph for the Ibrox men since the 2000 Tennent’s Scottish Cup and he loved every minute as he lifted silverware as skipper for the first time.

The Ibrox fans sang loud and long as the players celebrated on the field to spark what is the launch of the Alex McLeish era.

In the end the scoreline was a reflection of the gulf in class between the two sides and everyone at Ibrox is now hoping that this is the start of something special and new.

Ayr United deserve great credit, but once Rangers got their game going in the second half there was no doubt about the outcome.

In saying that, those who came to the National Stadium expecting a goal fest were sadly disappointed in the first half as Ayr United battled like terriers and gave Rangers some seriously scary moments before they lost the opening goal just before the break.

Stefan Klos was not expected to be overly taxed but the German keeper made two quite excellent saves to deny the First Division side from taking the lead as they pressed and pushed Rangers in front of their own support.

Little Brian McLaughlin must have thought he had scored when he lifted the ball superbly from the edge of the box in 29 minutes and the Rangers supporters held their breath as Klos scrambled backwards.

Somehow, with a brilliant stretch the Rangers keeper pawed the ball out of the air and then gained control just inches from his line as James Grady came flying in to try to finish it off.

Former Celt McLaughlin might have scored earlier when Tony Vidmar allowed the ball to slip under his foot in eight minutes and suddenly it was McLaughlin v Klos.

The little midfielder should have struck an early shot but delayed and a very relieved Vidmar was able to get back and make a vital block to force a corner when something much worse looked on the cards.

Klos was called into major action again in 36 minutes when Pat McGinlay tried a similar effort to McLaughlin’s lob. Fortunately for Rangers the result was the same. Klos threw up his right hand and made a vital block.

Those occupying the Rangers bench had already become a little agitated by this stage and with good reason. There was a lack of purpose about Rangers’ play and it undoubtedly gave Ayr heart.

The thing was, Rangers should have taken the lead as early as the fifth minute. Latapy and Ricksen worked the ball wide for Caniggia on the right side and his cross was perfect for Peter Lovenkrands who had got ahead of his marker on the six-yard line.

All the young Dane had to do was divert the ball into either corner and it was a certain goal but he shot straight at Craig Nelson who was able to make the save.

As it worked out, it took the Ibrox side until the 44th minute to poke their noses in front and it was all down to the individual skill ambition of Caniggia.

The veteran striker picked the ball up in a left central area and burst towards the centre of the box, skipping away from three challenges, before delivering a great ball for Flo who made a great run on the right side.

Such was the quality of the pass Flo barely had to break stride as he clipped a right foot shot into the left corner off the base of the post. There was almost a sense or relief as there was joy among the Rangers ranks.

It seems reasonable to assume, however, that the half-time pep talk from McLeish would still have contained some venom as the performance in the opening 45 minutes was not quite what he was looking for.

Within a couple of minutes of the second half he was a more contented manager as Rangers went two up and again Caniggia was involved.

Bert Konterman played the ball forward to the edge the box and Latapy moved in on for Caniggia who cleverly played him back in on the right side of the box. Latapy skipped away from Paul Lovering but the Ayr fullback made a despairing lunge and only succeeded in bringing Latapy down.

Barry Ferguson added some polish to his overall performance with an expertly taken spotkick as he tucked the ball into the left corner and then celebrated in front of the Rangers supporters behind the goal.

Caniggia was the architect of what should have the third goal in 60 minutes when his pace and trickery took him to the Ayr United byline. His cutback was perfect for Latapy but the little Caribbean midfielder lifted his shot over the bar from eight yards out.

Fittingly it was the 35-year-old who put the game beyond any doubt and sealed a first trophy triumph for Alex McLeish with an excellent goal in 74 minutes.

Neil McCann, who had come on for Lovenkrands 11 minutes earlier, was the man who set it up when he burst down the left and whipped over an inviting cross.

Caniggia did not need a second invitation as he guided a low right foot volley into the right corner and he thoroughly deserved it for a terrific performance.

The old warhorse was not finished, however, as he grabbed his second goal of the game in the final minute to really put the icing on the cake.

Caniggia had to stoop to reach Ricksen’s cross with his head and although Neil Duffy tried to hook the ball away it had clearly crossed the line.

Within a matter of seconds Hugh Dallas blew the final whistle and Rangers were winners once more.

RANGERS: Klos; Ricksen, Amoruso, Vidmar (Hughes 73), Numan; Ferguson, Konterman;, Latapy (Dodds 77); Caniggia, Flo, Lovenkrands (McCann 63). Subs not used – Kanchelskis, McGregor.

Bookings: None

AYR UNITED: Nelson; Robertson, Duffy, Hughes, Craig, Lovering; Wilson (Chaplain 88), McGinlay, Sheerin; Grady, McLaughlin (Kean 80). Subs not used – McEwan, Sharp, Dodds.

Bookings: Lovering (82)

Ref: Hugh Dallas.

Att: 50,067.

Man of the match: Claudio Caniggia.

Moment of the match: Caniggia’s skill and precision in creating the first goal.

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