The Ibrox boss welcomed four injured stars back to the starting line-up and rested another four with the Hampden showpiece in mind.

Lorenzo Amoruso, Peter Lovenkrands, Arthur Numan and Stefan Klos were given an afternoon off, but Barry Ferguson, Craig Moore, Claudio Caniggia and Shota Arveladze made a welcome return to action.

The first-half was a fairly low-key affair with neither side creating many chances, although Claudio Caniggia had a good opportunity to break the deadlock after 10 minutes. The veteran striker met Neil McCann’s corner with a solid header from 6-yards, Ryan Esson was beaten, but Derek Young cleared the ball off the line saving his goalkeeper’s blushes.

Captain Barry Ferguson was next to test the Aberdeen defence. The midfielder curled a 25-yard free kick towards goal, but it went just past Esson’s right hand post.

Aberdeen came to Glasgow brimming with confidence and Ben Thornley in particular made an impression in the first half. The former Man Utd and Huddersfield attacker linked well with Darren Mackie and Derek Young, but he was restricted to two long range drives that flashed over the bar.

Rangers should have gone ahead on 35 minutes as Claudio Caniggia had a great chance inside the Dons penalty box. Christian Nerlinger set up the striker with a fine lay off, but Ryan Esson brilliantly parried his low shot.

The deadlock was finally broken just before half time and it was Neil McCann that scored in bizarre circumstances. The winger’s 40th minute corner was fizzed into the box, it struck Philip McGuire and Ryan Esson on the goal line and ended up in the back of the net, much to the surprise of a delighted McCann.

The second half started at much the same tempo as the first and Ronald de Boer had a great opportunity to kill the game off just minutes after the break. The Dutchman powered towards the penalty box unleashed a left foot shot, but he screwed it wide when it was easier to hit the target.

Neil McCann was causing the Aberdeen defence all sorts of problems on the left flank and his cross on the hour gave Caniggia another chance to get his name on the scoresheet, but Philip McGuire blocked his powerful drive.

Darren Young almost scored an own goal moments later, Arveladzde’s flick on was headed towards his own goal by the defender, but Esson reacted smartly to save the day. 

Arveladze also struck the post on 68 minutes with a fine left foot strike and the points were secured with ten minutes to play. Substitute Tore Andre Flo was sent clear by Ronald De Boer, the Norwegian’s shot hit the upright and the ball fell nicely for Barry Ferguson who tapped it home from 6 yards.

It was a comfortable victory for Alex McLeish’s side and the manager will be delighted with the return of Moore, Arveladze, Caniggia and Barry Ferguson. 

Allan McGregor kept a clean sheet on his SPL debut for Rangers as the young goalie was only really tested once from Darren Mackie’s shot near the end.


Rangers: McGregor; Ross, Moore, Malcolm Vidmar; Ferguson (c), De Boer, Nerlinger; Caniggia (Flo 66), Arveladze, McCann. Unused Subs: Smith, Dodds, Kanchelskis, Latapy.

Aberdeen: Esson; McNaughton, Anderson, McGuire (Whyte 74), McAllister; Derek Young, Bisconti, Darren Young (c), Thornley (Tiernan 76); Mike(Clark 66), Mackie. Unused subs: Peak, Rutkiewicz.

Bookings: Bisconti (63).

Referee: John Underhill.

Attendance: 48,878.

Man of the Match: Barry Ferguson.

Moment of the Match: Neil McCann’s opening goal for Rangers, direct from a corner!


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