Rangers. . . 2
RANGERS conducted familiar celebrations in unfamiliar surroundings here yesterday, their victory over Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final having given them a clean sweep of domestic honours.
Their season was encapsulated in the 108th Scottish Cup final; at times outplayed, digging into reserves of courage as much as skill, yet finishing with a cruel efficiency. The very same qualities which had secured the Skol Cup and Premier Division championship and served them well in a European campaign which saw off Leeds United and left them 90 minutes away from of an appearance in the European Cup final.
The strain of of an arduous season and of the afternoon was clearly etched on the face of Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, when he faced the press. Perhaps he was reliving the strain of the final 15 minutes when Aberdeen threatened to claw back his team's two-goal advantage.
Eoin Jess, the promising Aberdeen striker who recently returned from a broken ankle, injected his side with promise when he came on in the 75th minute, and a goal by Lee Richardson lifted hearts temporarily. Rangers, however, held out for victory achieved by first-half goals from Neil Murray and Mark Hateley.
A two-week break since the completion of the league programme appeared to have refreshed the minds and bodies of both teams. Aberdeen played well, stretching Rangers but ultimately failing even in the absence of Ally McCoist and Trevor Stevens.
For Rangers it was a 26th Scottish Cup victory and a fifth treble. They held firm against a 20-minute Aberdeen onslaught before darting to the other end and scoring: the 20-year-old Murray made use of space on the right side of midfield to push up to the edge of the penalty area.
When Brian Irvine, the Aberdeen defender, misjudged a cross from the left, Murray's moment had arrived. His first touch sent the ball spinning from him, but he recovered to send in a shot which was deflected off Irvine into the net.
If there was an element of luck about that goal, Mark Hateley and Ian Durrant set about providing a moment of real class to prise open the Aberdeen rearguard for a superb second. Durrant's perfectly weighted and timed pass allowed Hateley to run clear of the defence, before scoring with a powerful shot from an angle.
Despite holding the territorial advantage after the break and sending in a succession of crosses, Aberdeen's attacks perished on a rock-solid defence where John Brown and Richard Gough - as they have been all season - were outstanding.
It took the introduction of Jess to provide the missing spark for Aberdeen, and within four minutes of his appearance Richardson collected a loose ball some 20 yards from goal and sent in a shot which came off the leg of Brown to deceive Goram and give the Dons a glimmer of hope.
Still Rangers' defence held firm, and for the second year in succession Gough accepted the Scottish Cup bedecked in red, white and blue and offered it to the skies and to his rapturous supporters.
Aberdeen: T Snelders; S McKimmie, S Wright (G Smith, 63 min), B Grant, B Irvine, A McLeish, L Richardson, P Mason, S Booth, D Shearer (E Jess, 75 min), M Paatelainen.
Rangers: A Goram; S McCall, D Robertson, R Gough, D McPherson, J Brown, N Murray, I Ferguson, I Durrant, M Hateley, P Huistra (S Pressley, 88 min). Sub not used: G McSwegan.
Referee: J McCluskey (Stewarton).
Goals: Murray (0-1, 23 min); Hateley (0-2, 43 min); Richardson (1-2, 77 min).Reuse content