RANGERS reached the Scottish Cup Final in more than dramatic fashion as they defeated Celtic on penalties in a game that swung back and forth.
Tomas Rogic’s decisive spot kick was the 14th of the shootout and as it sailed over the bar it handed the Light Blues a 5-4 win and a crack at winning the Scottish Cup for a 34th time.
In normal time Kenny Miller had opened the scoring on 16 minutes with a superbly taken goal as Mark Warburton’s side blew Celtic away in the opening period. Celtic levelled through an Erik Sviatchenko just after the break and the game went into extra-time.
Barrie McKay scored arguably his most stunning goal in a blue jersey and he swung a superb 25 yard shot into the top corner six minutes into extra-time. But, as they had done earlier, Celtic levelled after the break and penalties beckoned.
Andy Halliday, Barrie McKay, Lee Wallace and Gedion Zelalem all netted to send the blue half of Hampden into raptures.
Rangers started strongly, profiting from a corner on the right which fell to McKay with his back to goal. Ibrox-born Halliday received the lay off and Celtic’s defence had to dive to ground to block his shot.
Celtic hit back quickly with their own attack, Stefan Johansen marauding forward and striking sweetly but it was yards wide. The game had started in blistering fashion and just five minutes were gone.
Miller could have opened the scoring a minute later. McKay was involved again to play the striker in on the left and he took the shot on in his stride. Craig Gordon did well to get down and divert the ball away.
It looked nailed on that Scott Brown would score in the 10th minute when a Dom Ball clearance fell to him. The captain was storming into the box but lashed his powerful shot inches wide. It followed some superb defensive work from James Tavernier as he hooked the ball from under Lee Griffiths’ feet.
Griffiths went close three minutes later but his first touch to skip goalwards on the right was a little too heavy and he had to take the shot on a tight angle. It flashed across the front of goal but thankfully for Rangers no Celtic toes were there to poke the ball home.
It was the Light Blues who made the first vital move in the game – Old Firm veteran Miller sliding the ball past Gordon to fire Gers in front. Halliday had threaded a ball through on the right and as Brown slipped the striker pounced on the loose ball. Miller had his back to goal and didn’t even break stride as he collected the ball and finished with poise, one-on-one, past the keeper.
From the re-start Kieran Tierney tried for the equaliser but his rangey shot whizzed over the apex of Wes Foderingham’s goal.
On 23 minutes McKay turned quickly out on the left flank and spotted Lee Wallace running through. The left-back, who has nine goals already this term, didn’t break stride and sent a daisy cutter rifling towards goal but it flew fractions past the far post.
Holt was having a bite next, tearing in from the left to cut through the Celtic backline and send a pacey shot at Gordon. But like Wallace before him it whizzed wide.
How Celtic didn’t equalise just after the half hour mark is only for Patrick Roberts to answer. Griffiths cannoned a strike off the post and with Foderingham committed the rebound fell to Roberts. But with the goal gapping the Manchester City loanee somehow fired into the side netting.
Then Foderingham spilt another Griffiths shot – it looked like the loose ball would be jumped on but the former Swindon stopper had the quicker reflexes and smothered it.
Celtic delivered the first blow of the second period, giving Rangers a battle to regain their lead after Erik Sviatchenko nodded home. Ronnie Deila’s men had started the half with a series of corners and their fourth proved telling. Roberts swung a ball in from the left and sub Sviatchenko rose highest to head past Foderingham.
Griffiths had another guilt edged chance on 59 minutes, picking up a ball on the edge of the area and darting into the box but he couldn’t keep his blazing shot down and it flew over the crossbar. Rangers now had to try and pull back control in the game.
Dean Shiels made way for Nicky Law and Gers attempted to turn the pressure up. Sviatchenko tried a shot from range on 74 minutes as both sides started to feel the nerves.
With 10 minutes to go extra-time was looming. Tierney outpaced Law on left and rushed into the box, he pulled the trigger but Rob Kiernan was there with a diving and saving tackle to avert the danger. The centre-half seemed to have overstrained himself in the challenge as he limped away.
It became end to end stuff. Holt tried to dance through the Celtic defence but couldn’t find a way in and with eight minutes to play Deila’s side broke away. Griffiths stormed downfield and tried to square the ball to Callum McGregor but the Light Blues cleared as he struck an angular shot.
Kiernan was out of the game and had to hobble off with three minutes of normal time remaining. Gedion Zelalem came on and Dom Ball dropped back into central defence.
Celtic had another route through though as they profited from a Tavernier tackle and whipped a high free-kick into the area from the left. Their aerial presence once again caused problems as Nir Bitton headed just wide.
As the 90th minute ticked by extra-time was confirmed. Mark Warburton brought on Nicky Clark for Miller to give some fresh legs up front and Gers sized up for the 30 minute fight for a Scottish Cup Final place.
Out of nowhere, six minutes into extra-time, McKay wrote himself into Rangers history with a truly stunning strike from outside the box. The 21-year-old picked the ball up 25 yards out, jinked inside, adjusted his stride and then let a peach of a strike loose; the ball flew and nestled into the top left hand corner. The blue half of Hampden erupted.
Celtic weren’t letting the game go easy through and caused problems once again in the air for Rangers with 13 minutes gone of extra-time. Sviatchenko once again rose highest in the box and attempted to guide his header inside the far post but Foderingham had it covered.
Just as Celtic had done at the beginning of the second-half of normal time they dragged another back seconds into the final 15 minutes of extra-time. Tomas Rogic rifling the ball home beyond Foderingham after collecting a cross from left. It was all square once again.
Roberts should have done better moments later as he picked a difficult angle and dragged a shot across the face of goal. Then with 108 minutes played Rogic was in again but this time Foderingham made the save and the ball span behind for a corner.
Rogic was proving a tricky customer and stung Foderingham’s palms with seven minutes left on the clock. The Gers keeper was forced to palm the ball away after the Australian broke through the middle to part Danny Wilson and Ball.
With 90 seconds left on the clock Rangers hearts were in mouths as Griffiths thundered a free-kick off the crossbar. It bounced down just shy of the goal line and the Rangers players could breathe a sigh of relief as they scrambled to clear. The game would be decided on penalties.
Penalties began and Halliday netted the first at the Celtic end and Charlie Mulgrew followed suit. Tavernier and then Callum McGregor both missed their efforts, the latter saved by Foderingham.
McKay then sneaked his spot kick in at right post before Bitton scored. It was all level on 2-2. Nicky Clark blazed one over the bar and Brown had his saved. Wallace and Griffiths made it 3-3, Zelalem and Lustig 4-4.
Then the vital two kicks – Law buried his finish and then goalscorer Rogic blazed his high over the bar. Rangers are Scottish Cup finalists.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Wilson, Kiernan (Zelalem 87’), Wallace, Halliday, Ball, Shiels (Law 65’), Holt, McKay, Miller (Clark 90′)
Subs not used: Bell, Burt
Goals: Miller 16’, McKay 96’
Yellows: Ball 59’, Tavernier 88’, Halliday 118’
CELTIC: Gordon, Bitton, Brown, Griffiths, Mackay-Steven (McGregor 71’), Boyata (Sviatchenko 25’), Mulgrew, Lustig, Johansen (Rogic 84’), Roberts, Tierney
Subs not used: Bailly, Kazim-Richards, Armstrong, Commons
Goals: Sviatchenko 50’, Rogic 106’
Yellows: Sviatchenko 31’, Johansen 75’