RANGERS’ interest in this season’s William Hill Scottish Cup ended this afternoon with defeat to Celtic at Hampden Park.
The Light Blues were well-beaten by their rivals, and must now turn their attention back to the Scottish Premiership to secure as high a finish as possible and also ensure they qualify for Europe next season.
The game began in the usual, frantic style as Old Firm matches always seem to do, with both sides struggling to put any real period of play together.
That was until the fifth minute, as Gers were handed an almighty let-off, with Moussa Dembele hitting the post from just inside the area. He was played in-between the two Gers central defenders, and although replays showed him to be offside, no flag came, and the Frenchman struck the upright with Wes Foderingham well beaten.
That effort seemed to settle Celtic down, and it was they who took control of the match, creating the odd opportunity here and there, before taking the lead after 22 minutes.
James Forrest crossed for Tom Rogic, who despite having blue shirts around him, worked an angle for the shot and finished low beyond the reach of Foderingham.
The goal seemed to be coming, but Gers still looked shell-shocked when it arrived, with Celtic coming in waves towards their goal in the aftermath of Rogic’s opener.
Then suddenly, a clever Ross McCrorie ball out of defence sent Daniel Candeias clear down the right. He got to the by-line and crossed but found his route to an incoming blue jersey blocked by Dedryck Boyata at the front post.
Rangers looked to be settling into the game, but seven minutes before the interval, Celtic went 2-0 ahead. A Kieran Tierney cross dropped for Russell Martin to clear, but he took a poor touch and played the ball straight to the incoming Callum McGregor who curled the ball beyond the outstretched arm of Foderingham.
Manager Graeme Murty’s response to that goal was to replace Andy Halliday with Josh Windass, as his side looked for a route back into the match.
Rangers began the second half slightly on the front foot, forcing Celtic back into their own half for almost the first time in the match, but on their first foray into the Gers half, the side in green and white were awarded a penalty kick.
Moussa Dembele got in front of Ross McCrorie as he approached the box, with the young defender pulling back the striker for a spot-kick and a red card.
Dembele made no mistake with his kick, sending Foderingham the wrong way.
Three goals down and with 10-men, the Light Blues then created a couple of decent opportunities. Firstly, Craig Gordon made a superb save from a Morelos header before from the resulting corner, Bruno Alves forced the goalkeeper into another decent save to tip his effort over the bar.
Then, after Kristoffer Ajer made a mess of a clearance, the ball looped towards goal, off the bar and into the path of the incoming Morelos. He took a touch to steady himself but his shot was straight at the stricken Gordon on the ground.
From there, the game appeared to be petering out, but with 13 minutes to go, Celtic were awarded another penalty, this time substitute Jason Holt brought down Patrick Roberts in the box. Olivier Ntcham took the kick this time, and while Foderingham went the right way, the ball was out of his reach.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Tavernier, John, Dorrans (Holt, 71), Halliday (Windass, 40), Morelos, Candeias (Alves, 52), Murphy, Martin, McCrorie, Docherty.
SUBS NOT USED: Alnwick, Miller, Hodson, Cummings.
CELTIC: Gordon, Brown, Dembele (Griffiths, 82), Rogic (Sinclair, 60), Boyata, Ntcham, Lustig, Ajer, McGregor, Forrest (Roberts, 71), Tierney.
SUBS NOT USED: Bain, Simunovic, Edouard, Kouassi.
REFEREE: Mr Bobby Madden