Football: Rangers ensure Old Firm finale

St Johnstone 0 Rangers 4
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The Independent Online
THE HISTORY and tradition of Scottish football will attend the Tennents Scottish Cup final at the rebuilt Hampden Park next month as Celtic and Rangers contest the first Old Firm final for a decade.

The clash of Glasgow's bitter rivals will justify the raison d'etre of the national stadium, a truly neutral venue for Scotland's showcase matches.

Those who criticise the state of the game north of the border were given adequate ammunition over the course of two one-sided semi-finals, which saw Celtic and Rangers progress against token resistance.

St Johnstone employed the successful tactics of the previous week when they beat Rangers 3-1 in the League but they were tactics designed to frustrate, with nine players channelled behind the ball. That game plan was torn up within the first 15 minutes as Rangers found the inspiration missing in the previous game. Neil McCann broke quickly out of his own half and slid a through-ball to Rod Wallace. The Englishman steadied himself before shooting low past Alan Main.

The goal forced a change of heart from Sandy Clark. The St Johnstone manager replaced John Paul McBride with the pacier Miguel Simao, but Rangers continued to make the running, probing the Saints defence for weaknesses. Andrei Kanchelskis cut inside his man and forced a good save from Main at his near post, but when the second goal came it resulted from a more carefully rehearsed move. Jorg Albertz shaped to take a free-kick then exchanged passes with Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, allowing the Dutchman space to fire in a shot that was deflected into the bottom corner of the net.

Albertz came close to a third goal before half-time. The German, renowned for his powerful shot, put his full weight behind a blistering effort that thundered back off the crossbar from all of 35 yards.

Not content, Rangers continued to search for more goals in the second half. Stephane Guivarc'h, the French striker, again failed to impress and was replaced by Jonatan Johansson. The Finn was played clear almost immediately but Main stayed up well to the challenge. The goalkeeper then saved well from McCann, but from the resultant corner the ball fell to Johansson, who stroked home Rangers' third goal.

For the first time in the game, St Johnstone created chances, with Simao clipping over the bar and Gary Bowan seeing his shot deflected wide. However, it was not long before Rangers added a fourth, McCann collecting a pass on the edge of the area and curling his shot past the goalkeeper.

St Johnstone (4-5-1): Main; Weir, Dods, Kernaghan, Bollan; O'Halloran, Kane, Dasovic (Griffin, 74), McBride (Simao, 24), McAnespie; Grant (Lowndes, 64).

Rangers (4-1-3-2): Klos; Porrini, Amoruso, Hendry (Wilson, 75), Vidmar; Van Bronckhorst; Kanchelskis (McInnes, 70), Wallace, Albertz; Guivarc'h (Johansson, 56), McCann.

Referee: J McCluskey (Stewarton). Bookings: St Johnstone: Kernaghan. Rangers: Vidmar.

Man of the match: Albertz.

Attendance: 20,664.

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