reports from Hampden Park
Rangers 1 Aberdeen 2
Alex Ferguson, when he was manager of Aberdeen, maintained that if the Dons were to win honours they had to travel to Glasgow and beat Rangers or Celtic - or both. At Hampden last night Billy Dodds scored twice for Aberdeen to secure for them a Coca-Cola Cup final place, and with their opponents coming from tonight's all-First Division tie between Airdrie and Dundee the chances are Aberdeen will win their first trophy in five years.
Dodds' two goals came in the second half at a time when the Rangers defence was in a shambolic shape, and although Oleg Salenko pulled a goal back for Rangers with five minutes remaining Aberdeen hung on for a memorable victory.
Rangers, without Richard Gough, who had joined an ever-growing injury list, served notice of intent within seconds of the start, with Gordon Durie kicking off down the left before crossing for Ally McCoist, whose low shot snaked wide of the far post.
That confident booster behind them, Rangers set about dominating the opening period with Paul Gascoigne, in particular, displaying his skills in an impressive start.
Earlier in the day he had stated that he was playing the best football of his career and while the trademark runs with the ball perched on his toe were evident, so too was a willingness to scrap in the middle of the field and to include others in the game with short accurate passes.
Rangers appeared to be a yard quicker than their opponents in their efforts to further exorcise the ghosts of Turin following Saturday's 4-1 victory over Hearts.
Aberdeen, however, gradually eased their way into a game which was well short of the standard these two clubs have produced in cup ties in the past.
Having started the second half in more purposeful mood, Aberdeen were rewarded for their change in attitude six minutes after the re-start when Dodds put them ahead. The goal owed much to a scintillating run by Eoin Jess who released Dodds inside the Rangers' penalty area and, when his first effort rebounded off a defender, the Aberdeen striker retained his composure to stride on to the loose ball and shoot low past Andy Goram.
Three minutes later Stephen Glass curled a shot narrowly over the bar but as Rangers launched the counter-offensive their goalkeeper, Michael Watt, displayed his nerves when he flapped at a corner in the 61st minute which, thankfully for him, was cleared by the defence.
Aberdeen scored their second goal eight minutes later, again through Dodds. A cross from Glass from the left was inch perfect for the diminutive striker, who had eluded his marker and scored with a powerful downward header.
Rangers gave themselves a chink of light with five minutes remaining when Salenko shot powerfully past the goalkeeper and his nearside post from 18 yards.
Rangers (3-4-3): Goram; Moore (Durrant, 60), Brown, Petric; Cleland (Mikhailichenko, 80), McLaren, Gascoigne, Wright; McCoist, Salenko, Durie. Substitute not used: Murray.
Aberdeen (4-4-2): Watt; Grant, Inglis, Smith, McKimmie; Miller (Hetherston, 84), Bernard, Jess, Glass; Booth, Dodds. Substitutes noy used: Shearer, Snelders (gk).
Referee: H Dallas (Motherwell).