Football: Smith's slip gives Rangers the prize

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The Independent Online
Aberdeen. .1

Rangers. . 2

(after extra time; 1-1 at 90 min)

BY WINNING the first domestic trophy on offer this season Rangers have completed the set, with the Skol Cup joining the Scottish League and Cup in the Ibrox trophy room. Their domination of the Scottish game is now almost complete.

With four consecutive title wins, a Scottish Cup jinx ended last season, and this - their sixth Skol Cup win - it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a team in Scotland to match their resources.

Nevertheless, as the bulldozers move in on Hampden today to end an era, there was an unsatisfactory feeling about the last hurrah at the wizened old stadium. Both the Rangers goals could be directly attributed to defensive errors, and in a sense they were denied some of the glory.

This was no classic in the epic mould of previous finals between the two clubs, and at times there was only just enough happening to sustain interest. The sight of Richard Gough, Trevor Steven and Ally McCoist limping round the lap of honour bore testament to the commitment shown throughout the 120 minutes.

Nowhere more was that commitment shown than in the performance of Ian Durrant, who has taken two and a half years to rebuild a knee and confidence which were shattered in an instant back in 1988. He was the midfield driving force behind Rangers, with darting runs and incisive passing. Significantly, he performed so well at the scene of his greatest moment: the Skol Cup final of 1987, when he scored the decisive penalty against Aberdeen.

For long enough penalties loomed. Locked at 1-1 in the second period of extra time, Rangers were the busier side without posing serious threat until David Robertson sent over a cross in the 114th minute. Gary Smith, who had had a fine afternoon and had policed McCoist out of the game, dived to head the ball wide - but succeeded only in deceiving his goalkeeper, Theo Snelders, and the ball slipped agonisingly slowly over the line.

If Smith was unlucky, Snelders was badly at fault for Rangers' first goal 100 minutes earlier. Durrant passed for Steven on the right but David Winnie stuck out a foot to divert the ball to Snelders, who chested it - fearful of conceding a free-kick - only for Stuart McCall to nip in to score with a rasping shot. How the referee would have interpreted the pass-back law can only be left to the imagination; certainly there was no deliberate pass by the defender.

It will be little consolation to the Dons' goalkeeper that he later made important saves from McCoist, McPherson and Durrant as Rangers looked to increase their lead, after Ian Ferguson had shot against the post even before the first goal.

Aberdeen gave themselves a fighting chance through Duncan Shearer in 62 minutes. He controlled a Winnie cross, wheeled and sent a fine shot into the far corner for a splendid equaliser.

Sadly for the men from the north, it was not enough and the late goal denied them even a penalty shoot-out. Their fans headed home quickly at the end, leaving both Hampden and Durrant to continue to build for the future.

Aberdeen: Snelders; Wright, Winnie, Grant, McLeish, Smith, Aitken (Richardson, 25), Bett (Booth, 61), Jess, Shearer, Paatelainen.

Rangers: Goram; McCall, D Robertson, Gough (Mikhailichenko, 64), McPherson, Brown, Steven (Gordon, 57), Ferguson, McCoist, Hateley, Durrant.

Referee: D Hope (Erskine).

(Photograph omitted)