RANGERS have been knocked out of this year’s William Hill Scottish Cup following a two-nil defeat to Celtic at the semi-final stage this afternoon.
Callum McGregor’s goal on 11 minutes and Scott Sinclair’s penalty in the 51st minute gave Brendan Rodgers’ side a deserved victory at Hampden Park, and they will now go through to the final to face Aberdeen on May 27.
This afternoon’s game was expected to be a tight encounter following the 1-1 draw at Celtic Park last month, but in truth the Light Blues will be disappointed with their overall performance on this occasion as they failed to trouble Craig Gordon or put any kind of sustained pressure on the defenders in front of him until the latter stages.
After eight games unbeaten since taking over as manager of the Gers, it was a tough afternoon at the national stadium for Pedro Caixinha in his first Old Firm game in charge, and he will be hoping for more from his team in six days when the Glasgow rivals meet again at Ibrox, this time in the league.
It was Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner who got today’s Cup showdown underway from Willie Collum’s first whistle but within three minutes Celtic had created a couple of chances.
The first, a header by Moussa Dembele from a corner, went wide before McGregor cut inside from the right but his left-foot shot was straight at Wes Foderingham.
In the build-up to McGregor’s effort Andy Halliday, who returned to the Gers starting eleven along with Garner, was booked for a late challenge on Patrick Roberts.
The early stages were being played in Rangers’ half and on nine minutes a curling effort from Stuart Armstrong from 25 yards was only a few feet wide of the target.
The opening goal arrived in the next attack and it was a poor one for the Light Blues to concede.
A long ball was over the defence was controlled by Dembele and he rolled it into the path of Callum McGregor who passed his low shot into the net beyond the helpless Foderingham from 18 yards.
Rangers had to regroup and show a bit of composure to halt Celtic’s pressure, and they did so to a degree before Brendan Rodgers had to make his first substitution with 34 minutes on the clock.
Dembele pulled up and looked to be holding his hamstring as he immediately walked up the tunnel and was replaced by Leigh Griffiths.
After going on Celtic’s number nine was given the chance to test Foderingham when Myles Beerman brought down Roberts as the winger looked to dart into the Gers 18-yard box from the right side of the pitch.
It could have been a second yellow for the Auchenhowie graduate but Collum decided not to go to his pocket before Griffiths brought out a good save from Foderingham at his near post.
Rangers’ first shot of the game came in the 41st minute when Kenny Miller tried his luck from distance but his left-foot effort was high and wide of Gordon’s goal.
This pretty much summed up a first half Celtic dominated and Rodgers’ men will feel they should have gone in at the break with a bigger lead in place.
As it was Rangers were still in with a chance of progressing to the final at this stage but a big improvement was needed in the second period.
Caixinha made two changes for the restart, putting Joe Dodoo and Barrie McKay on for Garner and Halliday with Kenny Miller moving up to play alongside Martyn Waghorn.
Both players had an initial impact as Rangers attacked from the whistle but with just four minutes of the second half played a swift counter attack resulted in James Tavernier mistiming a tackle on Griffiths in the box.
The ref immediately pointed to the spot and Sinclair’s penalty went in off the post, with Foderingham getting a hand to the ball but unable to keep it out.
With a two-goal lead in place the Celtic players were now full of confidence and on the hour mark you wondered how Rangers were going to back into a game when Gordon, up to this point, had yet to be tested.
Miller did his best to change that.
His glancing header brought out a diving save from the towering keeper when he perhaps should have scored, and with 10 minutes of the match to go Gordon again had to be lively to block Kenny’s low effort from inside the box.
Martyn Waghorn also had an opportunity to give Rangers a glimmer of hope in the latter stages but his left-foot shot from a tight angle few past Gordon’s near post.
And with four minutes remaining a superb deep cross from Tavernier looked perfect for the South Shield striker but his header went over the bar.
With the final whistle approaching substitute Tom Rogic hit the post before Gordon made a good save to deny Dodoo who let fly from distance.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Bates, Wilson, Beerman, Hyndman (Windass 69), Holt, Halliday (Dodoo 46), Miller, Waghorn, Garner (McKay 46)
SUBS NOT USED: Alnwick, Hill, Toral, Hodson
CELTIC: Gordon, Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney, Armstrong, Brown, Roberts (Forrest 82), McGregor (Rogic 75), Sinclair, Dembele (Griffiths 34)
SUBS NOT USED: Bailly, Gamboa, Sviatchenko, Eboue Kouassi
GOALS: McGregor 11, Sinclair 51pen
REF: Willie Collum