RANGERS are into their first League Cup final since 2011 following a superb victory over Hearts at Hampden this afternoon.
An utterly dominant first-half ended with Filip Helander putting Gers ahead before Alfredo Moreos grabbed goals 19 and 20 of an unbelievable campaign in the second half to book the Light Blues a place back here at the National Stadium on December 8 against Celtic.
Indeed, it will be a first final for Steven Gerrard as manager and the first final for the club of any sort since May 2016.
From the side which faced and dismantled Ross County in midweek in some style, boss Gerrard made three changes.
After missing the trip to Dingwall through injury, Allan McGregor came back in between the sticks in place of Wes Foderingham, while Steven Davis and Ryan Kent replaced Joe Aribo and Scott Arfield in Gerrard’s standard 4-3-3 line-up.
The Light Blues were backed by over 38,500 supporters inside the National Stadium, and it was they who were making the lions’ share of the noise as the teams entered what was a terrific pitch.
The first chance of the way came the way of Gers, with Alfredo Morelos sending an effort on the turn over the bar from just outside the box on six minutes.
Sheyi Ojo sent a trundling effort from similar range into the arms of Joel Pereira after good work from Ryan Kent before Gers created a flurry of chances on 17 minutes.
Michael Smith did superbly to take the ball off the toe of Alfredo Morelos from a James Tavernier cross as the Colombian looked certain to score before the clearance was played into the path of the incoming Steven Davis. He also tried to feed Morelos, but he couldn’t quite connect with the midfielder’s cross
It was all Rangers, and Ryan Jack was next to try his luck, bringing a fine stop out of Pereira as he ghosted into the area down the right channel.
Smith then cleared a Glen Kamara shot off the line from a Sheyi Ojo setup, while Pereira denied Tavernier at his near-post as he got on the end of a threaded Jack pass.
Ryan Kent worked a super angle for a shot on 42 minutes which came back off the post from 25-yards, while Davis had a strike on the end of a Tavernier corner from similar distance deflected just wide as the clock ticked over into two minutes of injury time.
The resulting corner from that effort, however led to Rangers first goal at Hampden since May 2016 – the Light Blues having played five times at the National Stadium in that period without netting.
Borna Barisic’s ball was cleared as far as Ryan Kent who was 35-yards from goal. He slipped Morelos in down the left, and from there, the Colombian delivered a super pass across the face of goal, with Filip Helander the man gambling to get on with it. The Swede had nobody tracking him, and he finished superbly beyond Pereira from six yards.
The noise and scenes which greeted the goal were perhaps born out of relief more than anything else as the Light Blues headed into the break with a richly deserved lead.
And, like the proverbial bus, after waiting so long for just one goal here, a second wasn’t too long in following behind – indeed within two minutes of the restart.
A Kent cross was nodded onto the foot of Tavernier by Ojo, and from the edge of the six-yard box, Tavernier simply played it back across goal, and waiting to net his 19th of the season was, unsurprisingly Alfredo Morelos for his first Hampden goal.
Hearts had a decent flurry after the second goal for the first time, as Uche Ikpeazu saw a headed effort from a corner sent behind by Ryan Jack before Andrew Irving sent a nodded diving effort wide of McGregor’s far post.
A Jack volley on the end of a Barisic cross had Pereira scrambling before Morelos blasted against the crossbar on the volley from an Ojo cutback.
The football Gers were playing was just wonderful, and goal number three and Morelos’ 20th of an outrageous season arrived on 62 minutes.
After playing a delightful one-two with Morelos on the edge of the area, Kent burst into the area, skinned Aaron Hickey and laid it on a plate for Morelos who simply couldn’t miss from close-range.
He had the ball in the net again six minutes later as Ojo squared for him, but the offside flag went againt him, while he volleyed a Tavernier corner over while under severe pressure soon after.
Substitutes Jermain Defoe and Filip Helander tested Pereira twice in quick succession, while the goalkeeper somehow clawed a Joe Aribo effort from a corner away in injury time.
So 3-0 is how it finished, and Rangers will be back here in five weeks as they look to end the club’s long wait without major silverware.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Davis, Jack (Arfield, 77), Kamara; Ojo (Defoe, 82), Morelos, Kent.
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Flanagan, Katic, Barker.
HEARTS: Pereira, Smith (Naismith, 53), White, Berra, Bozanic, Clare, Whelan (Irving, 78), Wighton, Hickey, Meshino, MacLean (Ikpeazu , 40).
SUBS NOT USED: Doyle, Walker, Brandon, Keena.
REFEREE: John Beaton