Rangers book Scottish Cup final spot with stunning win over Celtic

Rangers are through to the Scottish Cup final after a 2-1 win over Celtic after extra time at Hampden this afternoon as goals from Scott Arfield and Fashion Sakala secured a comeback victory.

The Light Blues made just one change from the marathon midweek victory over Braga in the Europa League, with Jon McLaughlin entering the starting XI to replace Allan McGregor.

It was Rangers who had the first chance to open the scoring, with Kent firing as Callum McGregor crashed into the in-form Gers wide player to shoot.

There was a frenetic start as the game went from start to finish, with Jota having Celtic’s first chance of the game before McGregor was again embroiled in a late challenge from Aribo.

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The Light Blues had however started rather well with Roofe on the side to try his luck, shooting from long range and passing just wide of the left post of Joe Hart.

The 16-goal striker showed great technique, initially looking like he was going to feed Barisic inside Celtic’s right-back before shooting instead.

As Rangers looked starved to open the scoring, John Lundstram played a big part in making it happen in the middle of the park for Gio van Bronckhorst’s side.

The former Sheffield United star was closing passes everywhere and harassing Celtic players as the Light Blues found themselves facing their opponents.

While the first 15 minutes flew by, it was Rangers who would have been the happier of the two teams, preventing Celtic from playing as they would have liked and looking the most likely to break the deadlock.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

There were no signs of fatigue amongst the Rangers players despite their Europa League marathon on Thursday night looking fresh and more than matching the energy of the Parkhead squad.

Celtic pulled off a lucky breakaway in the 20th minute, with Tavernier’s seductive cross going through the net and forcing a nervous clearance from Juranovic to cost a corner.

Rangers were almost masters of their own fall soon after, with Bassey and McLaughlin playing silly passes inside the area before the keeper made a serious mistake and offered them a corner.

The frantic opening stages had died down midway through and play became a bit more scrappy as momentum slowed and both teams turned possession to each other.

There was another dangerous chance for Rangers when Bobby Madden awarded a free-kick at the edge of the box after Rogic fouled Roofe, however, Aaron Ramsey fired over the bar as the odds turned presented.

Rangers went close on either side 33 minutes later, with Roofe’s header cleared by Starfelt before Aribo tried to kick the ball home and took a painful one.

Celtic FC v Rangers FC - Scottish Cup Semi-Final
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Aribo would soon become the first player to enter the referee’s book, taking one for the team and breaking up a midfield counterattack and leaving the Rangers defense to regroup.

Callum McGregor would follow a minute or two later when he tried, and failed, to bring down Kent, while the Celtic players complained that Juranovic was down after a meeting with Aribo.

There was another lucky escape for Celtic five minutes before the break, John Lundstram cracking the ball past Hart’s post with a stunning effort that beat the keeper.

While things seemed to be going well for Rangers, Aaron Ramsey’s afternoon ended when the Welshman went down with no one near him, limping holding his hamstrings with Scott Wright in his place.

After Ryan Jack earned himself a place in the book for a foul on Hatate, the first half would end with neither team breaking the deadlock.

There was no doubt that Rangers had the upper hand before the break, but the big question as the players walked away was whether or not they would be able to turn their dominance into goal.

The second 45 started with the same intensity as the first as both sides launched into tackles, with Kemar Roofe picking up an early booking for bringing down Maeda as he advanced.

The game started to bubble up a bit with a number of heavy tackles interrupting play and forcing Bobby Madden to step in and try to calm things down a bit.

Ten minutes later, Kent came within centimeters of the 1-0 goal, cutting inside from the left before unleashing an effort that went just wide of the post.

Bassey got away with one when it was robbed by O’Riley and the Dane’s cross was intercepted by the retreating Goldson as his inexperienced teammate showed his appreciation.

The Nigerian had struggled to really find his feet – particularly after the break – and that surely provided more than a few jittery moments on the Rangers bench.

Celtic FC v Rangers FC - Scottish Cup Semi-Final
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

With 27 minutes to go, the stalemate was finally broken when Celtic’s Greg Taylor scored from a well-worked free kick, with the Rangers defense too slow to react; Taylor’s effort taking a deflection from Bassey on his way to goal.

The defense was nowhere near good enough from the Light Blues and they had no one to blame but themselves after falling behind.

It really should have been two a minute or two later, Carter-Vickers crushing an effort over the bar as Rangers failed to clear their lines in a corner.

Van Bronckhorst would make a double change for the final quarter with Scott Arfield and Steven Davis coming on in place of Ryan Jack and Joe Aribo and it paid off within minutes.

Tavernier’s ball through the box was perfectly weighted and Arfield was there to fire home and send Rangers wild Hampden – the first time a Rangers player had scored at that end against them since Peter Lovenkrands 20 years ago years.

The Gers had their tails after the goal and had the ball in the net again a few minutes later, with Roofe having yet another goal disallowed this week.

As the minutes ticked away, Rangers dominated as they searched for a winner in normal time and avoided having to go to extra time for the second time in four days – regardless of extra time.

The addition of Arfield and Davis had the desired effect, calming down the Rangers midfield and allowing them to use the ball much better and making things more difficult for Celtic when they tried to advance.

Five minutes into extra time, Rangers felt they should have had a penalty when Roofe burst in on Scott Wright’s pass before falling to a challenge from Hart – although it would have been a soft one.

There were signs of quickly tiring legs from the Rangers side as extra time headed into half-time and van Bronckhorst may have considered further changes to add some extra energy – and that came shortly time after with Kamara replacing Lundstram in midfield.

Rangers had a second injury problem when Borna Barisic was replaced by Leon Balogun while Kemar Roofe left with Fashion Sakala replacing him.

Somehow, Joe Hart repeatedly denied Rangers within seconds as it looked like the Light Blues were going to get their second of the afternoon with ten minutes remaining.

Six minutes from the end, Sakala succeeded 2-1.

Calvin Bassey brought the ball into the box brilliantly and Sakala was there to drive it home at the back post and put Rangers within reach of the final.

It was nothing more than what Rangers deserved and the Light Blues would have plenty to be unhappy about if they had to go on penalties and, with no response from Celtic, the most unlikely hat-trick still remains in square.

Rangers: McLaughlin, Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barisic, Jack, Lundstram, Aribo, Ramsey, Kent, Roofe.
submarines: McGregor, Amad, Davis, Kamara, Sands, Wright, Balogun, Fashion Jr, Arfield, King, Lowry.

Celtic: Hart, Juranovic, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor, McGregor, Hatate, Rogic, Jota, Maeda, Abada.
submarines: Bain, Jullien, Kyogo, Turnbull, McCarthy, Ideguchi, Johnston, O’Riley, Forrest, Ralston, Welsh.

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