Hibernian 0 Rangers 0: Frustrated Rangers face fixture congestion
Monday 04 February 2008
Rangers are facing further fixture congestion after the Scottish Football Association refused to allow their Scottish Cup replay against Hibernian to take place on Wednesday.
Their manager Walter Smith wants the game to go ahead this midweek, maintaining that it is the only free slot for several weeks because of Rangers' participation in the Uefa Cup this month and a backlog of other matches.
Both clubs are happy for the tie at Ibrox to be played then, after yesterday's fifth-round game ended in a goalless stalemate at Easter Road. However, the SFA have rejected Rangers' request because several players have international commitments. Smith believes finding a suitable date will prove problematic.
"I'm a wee bit bemused because we have offered to play it on Wednesday and they have told us we can't and I don't know why," he said. "With us having a busy schedule and having one week available to us, it's a bit of a mystery why we can't play it because it's really the only Wednesday we have to play unless they are going to cancel a Uefa Cup tie or a league game."
It proved to be a busy afternoon for the goalkeepers yesterday, both sides creating chances but lacking the cutting edge required to decide the tie. There was even an unexpected debut for new Rangers goalkeeper Neil Alexander after Allan McGregor was sent off with a few minutes left.
Rangers claimed a penalty within seconds of kick-off when Steven Naismith went to ground under pressure from Kevin McCann, but there appeared to be little contact and referee Craig Thomson signalled for play to continue. Merouane Zemmama gave Hibs hope of an early opener when he embarked on an impressive run down the left flank but he was halted by Kirk Broadfoot.
Hibs should have taken the lead shortly before half-time. Dean Shiels' firm shot was deflected inches wide before Steven Fletcher's header was hooked off the line by Naismith.
Lee McCulloch saw his point-blank header held by Yves Ma-Kalambay shortly after half-time. Rankin then whipped a great ball across the goalmouth with Zemmama sliding in at the back post – but the little Moroccan could not quite make the connection.
Barry Ferguson was not too far away with a right-footed volley which swerved just wide, before McGregor produced a superb save to deny Fletcher's shot.
A controversial opener almost followed. Shiels controlled the ball with his hand before finding Fletcher in space. The striker rounded McGregor and looked certain to score – but Sasa Papac nodded the ball to safety.
Charlie Adam could have been the hero for the visitors when Broadfoot was felled on the edge of the box and he stepped up for the free-kick. His curling effort was well struck but Ma-Kalambay punched clear.
McGregor was shown a straight red card with three minutes to go for racing off his line and clattering into Shiels as he bore down on goal.
Hibernian: Ma-Kalambay, McCann, Hogg, Jones, Hanlon, Shiels, Kerr, Murray, Rankin, Fletcher (Donaldson, 90), Zemmama (O'Brien, 74). Substitutes not used: McNeil, Chisholm, Gathuessi.
Rangers: McGregor, Broadfoot, Cuellar, Weir, Papac, Hemdani (Alexander, 88), Ferguson (Boyd, 76), Adam, Burke, McCulloch, Naismith (Darcheville, 65). Substitutes not used: Dailly, Fleck.
Booked: Hibernian: Fletcher, Murray Rangers: Broadfoot:
Sent off: Rangers: McGregor (88)
Referee: C Thomson (Scotland)
Quarter-final draw: Aberdeen v Celtic; Queen of the South v Motherwell or Dundee; Ross County or St Johnstone v St Mirren or Dundee United; Hibernian or Rangers v Livingston or Partick Thistle. To be played on the weekend of 8 March.
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