Rangers lift Scottish Cup for first time since 2009 after beating Hearts 2-0 in extra-time at Hampden Park
Ryan Jack and Scott Wright stepped off the subs bench to ensure the Gers didn’t end a memorable campaign trophyless
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Rangers lifted the Scottish Cup for the first time in 13 years after two goals in three minutes during extra-time from substitutes Ryan Jack and Scott Wright sunk Hearts at Hampden Park.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side faced an additional 30 minutes for the second time in the space of 72 hours as they eventually broke the stubborn Jambos resistance to ease the pain of their Europa League final defeat and ensure they ended a memorable campaign with silverware.
Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon was in inspired form at the national stadium as he denied the Light Blues on several occasions before former Aberdeen duo Jack and Wright came off the bench to deliver the killer blows.
Referee Willie Collum’s full-time whistle was met with loud cheers as Rangers fans housed in the west end of the stadium celebrated their first trophy of the season, just three days on from their agonising penalty shoot-out loss to Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.
Following 120 minutes in energy-sapping conditions in Spain, Van Bronckhorst opted to rotate his starting line-up and his players showed no signs of fatigue as the match wore on.
In what was their 66th match of a gruelling campaign, Rangers struggled to settle in a tense and cagey opening 45 minutes.
The absence of star striker and top scorer Alfredo Morelos was evident once again as Rangers appeared to lack a focal point in attack and their often relentless press failed to materialise in the first-half.
Hearts were really disciplined, with Rangers-bound John Souttar and central defensive partner Craig Halkett producing a number of important blocks and snuffing out any threat posed by the Glasgow giants.
However, the Gorgie outfit didn’t offer enough in attack with strike pairing Ellis Simms and Liam Boyce failing to seriously test Jon McLaughlin in the Gers goal.
Everton loanee Simms should have put Hearts in front inside 10 minutes after his lunging effort from Boyce’s cross glanced the post, with McLaughlin beaten.
The game continued rage from end to end but neither side looked like scoring until Gordon pulled off a stunning save with his left boot to deny Joe Aribo in stoppage time.
Scott Wright then headed against the crossbar with the final chance as Rangers finished the match on the front-foot and they carried that momentum into extra-time.
Moments after Aribo headed over from close range, Jack rifled a shot high in off the bar from the edge of the box after the Jambos struggled to clear a corner from the left.
That goal appeared to rattle Robbie Neilson’s side and in their pursuit of an equaliser, they were caught in possession deep inside the Rangers half, allowing Ryan Kent to race forward and pick out Wright who fired low into the far corner of the net.
The final had slipped away from Hearts and the two-goal cushion allowed Van Bronckhorst to hand 40-year-old goalkeeper Allan McGregor a late substitute appearance.
With the veteran’s Ibrox contract set to expire, it appeared to be a fitting end to his glittering playing career, amid speculation he will retire this summer.
This was an occasion to savour for everyone connected with Rangers, given the physical and mental toll on Van Bronckhorst and his players following Wednesday night’s defeat.
It could also signal the end for many out of contract stars withthe likes of Connor Goldson, Steven Davis and McGregor nearing the end of their deals.
If that does prove to be the case, they go out on a high by signing off with a trophy and a Scottish Cup winners’ medal.