Rangers rise to occasion

Celtic 1 Rangers 2
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The Independent Online
Rangers demonstrated their big -match mentality, coupled with their ability to hurt a defence at crucial times, to overcome their greatest rivals and progress to a meeting with Hearts in the final of the Tennents Scottish Cup on 18 May.

The talents of Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup, who have the skills to unlock any defence, again shone through for the Ibrox side. This Rangers victory, which leaves Celtic without a win over their rivals in six games between the two this season, leaves Rangers on course for the domestic double.

The Englishman and the Dane were involved in the move which allowed Ally McCoist to score the first goal two minutes before the interval and Laudrup demonstrated his skill by adding the second and decisive goal in the 66th minute.

The first half was remarkable mainly for the number of yellow cards - six in total for offences ranging from dissent to lunging tackles - given by the referee, Les Mottram. The tension in that opening period transmitted itself from the terraces to the pitch

For Celtic, trailing by five points in the league this was the best chance to finish with a trophy to show for the season in which they have been praised for the quality of their football. And yet once again they lacked the penetration to seriously trouble the Rangers defence.

Rangers, for their part, showed that they can play, with an early Gascoigne pass splitting the Celtic defence to allow McCoist a clear run on Gordon Marshall. The prolific striker can usually be depended upon to supply the finish on such occasions but this time as he rounded the goalkeeper he bumped into Tom Boyd who had raced back and managed to clear.

Rangers, who created the best chances of the half again, cut through the Celtic defence in the 38th minute, Gascoigne working a one-two with Gordon Durie but failing to get power or direction into his shot. In everything, Rangers looked to Gascoigne who was inevitably involved when they took the lead in the 43rd minute. His pass found Laudrup who set up a shooting chance for Robertson and when Marshall could only palm out his weak shot, the ball rolled into the path of the waiting McCoist who slid a low shot into the unguarded net.

Laudrup was again deeply involved in the second half, creating a chance for Durie in the 50th minute and, nine minutes later, his through ball allowed Robertson to round the goalkeeper and shoot but again Boyd came to Celtic's rescue, sweeping the ball off the line.

In the 66th minute Rangers scored the goal which took them to the final. Laudrup exchanged passes with Stuart McCall 10 yards inside the Celtic half, ran on and lobbed the ball over the helpless goalkeeper.

Thereafter Rangers appeared happy enough to sit back and allow Celtic to control the game while retaining a menace whenever they broke. Celtic grabbed a lifeline in the 81st minute when Pierre van Hooijdonk glanced a header from a Jackie McNamara cross down and out of the reach of Andy Goram.

And Tommy Burns' men created enough chances to earn a replay. Simon Donnelly and Morten Wieghorst both headed over and, with three minutes remaining, Donnelly missed the best of the lot, lifting his shot over the bar after beating Alan McLaren on his blind side to reach a through ball.

For all their efforts Celtic were once again left empty- handed with the beaming face of McCoist at the end being the image for which this game will be remembered.

Goals: McCoist (43) 0-1; Laudrup (66) 0-2; Van Hooijdonk (81) 1-2.

Celtic (4-4-2): Marshall; McNamara, Boyd, Hughes, McKinlay; Donnelly, McStay, Grant, McLaughlin (Wieghorst, 45); Van Hooijdonk, Thom. Substitutes not used: O'Neil, Gray.

Rangers: (3-4-3): Goram; Petric, McLaren, Brown; Cleland, Gascoigne, McCall, Robertson; Durie (Steven, 79) McCoist, Laudrup. Substitutes not used: Endersen, Scott.

Bookings: Celtic: McKinlay, Grant, McStay, Wieghorst. Rangers: Cleland, Brown, Durie, McCall.

Referee: L Mottram (Forth).

Man of the Match: Gascoigne. Attendance: 36,333.