Football: Rangers revel in records

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The Independent Online
Rangers 4 Hearts 3

Rangers won a Coca-Cola Cup final which was awash with statistics. This latest trophy was the 11th won by Walter Smith as manager and provided Ally McCoist with a ninth winner's medal as well as his 50th League Cup goal in the 50th final.

Rangers recorded their 20th success yet, as he showed the Cup to his supporters, Richard Gough, the Rangers captain, will have been aware that such occasions are numbered for him.

Having announced his intention to leave the club at the end of the season there are now just two domestic trophies left to hold aloft, and if his team-mates have decided to help supply a treble as a going-away present they obliged in the first of the three.

The occasion was helped by a Hearts team whose second-half performance transformed a routine Rangers victory into a pulsating, entertaining cup final.

Trailing 2-1 at the interval, Hearts responded with a spirited display to bring themselves level before Paul Gascoigne scored two goals in the space of two minutes. The double strike effectively killed off the Hearts challenge, although they pulled a goal back at the death.

If Gascoigne was instrumental in securing the victory it fell to McCoist to give Rangers that half-time lead. Ten minutes had gone when Brian Laudrup escaped his marker to slip the ball to the striker at the edge of the penalty area and a low shot into the corner of the net was the seemingly inevitable result. Rangers' second goal in the 26th minute came from a bout of head tennis inside the penalty area. Gordan Petric headed a corner to Craig Moore who in turn headed on to McCoist, whose close-range header found the net.

Hearts, who had painful memories of their 5-1 defeat in the Scottish Cup final last May still fresh in their minds, gave Paul Ritchie the job of man-marking Laudrup, yet within those first 10 minutes the plans had been ripped up, and when McCoist scored his second goal there was no alternative for the Edinburgh club but to attack.

They were rewarded with a goal from Steve Fulton on the stroke of half- time. He collected a short corner, turned inside the area and swept his shot through a clutch of players past Andy Goram. Encouraged by that effort, Hearts became the driving force in the second period. Colin Cameron saw his shot well saved by Goram seconds after the restart and it was no surprise when John Robertson scored the equaliser in the 59th minute.

Neil McCann, who was to be named man of the match, sent in a low cross for Robertson to sidefoot the ball into the net.

From then the lessons for Hearts were as painful as those of last May. Then, they had been swept aside, yesterday they appeared to stop and admire their efforts, unaccustomed to being in such a position. They were punished by Gascoigne.

He collected a loose ball, ran at the Hearts penalty area and curled a fine shot past Gilles Rousset. Two minutes later a one-two with McCoist allowed the Englishman to add another and suddenly the world had fallen apart for the vociferous Hearts supporters who had hoped to celebrate their club's first trophy for 34 years.

A headed goal by the defender David Weir almost on the final whistle merely produced another statistic for the day. Unlike at Hampden in May, the Hearts supporters stayed at the end to show their appreciation of their side's efforts - but it was the Rangers supporters who filed into the cold night in celebratory mood.

Goals: McCoist (10) 1-0; McCoist (26) 2-0; Fulton (44) 2-1; Robertson (59) 2-2; Gascoigne (64) 3-2; Gascoigne (65) 4-2; Weir (90) 4-3.

Rangers (3-5-2): Goram; Petric, Gough, Bjorklund; Cleland (Robertson, h-t), Miller, Gascoigne, Albertz, Moore; McCoist, Laudrup. Substitutes not used: Van Vossen, Snelders (gk).

Heart of Midlothian (4-4-2): Rousset; Weir, Bruno, Ritchie, Pointon; Cameron, Mackay, Fulton, McCann; Paille (Beckford, 78), Robertson. Substitutes not used: Goss, McManus.

Bookings: Rangers: Moore, Petric, Bjorklund, Miller, Laudrup. Hearts: Bruno.

Referee: H Dallas (Motherwell).

Man of the match: McCann. Attendance: 48,559.