CIS Cup Final: Celtic 1-2 Rangers 20/3/2011

Graham Baird Reports…

Rangers claimed the first silverware of the season today, beating Old Firm rivals Celtic 2-1 in the CIS Cup Final. Nikica Jelavic notched the winner in the 98th minute for Rangers, coolly slotting past Fraser Forster after the match had gone into extra time.

The win gives Walter Smith his twentieth major honour with Rangers, in what appears to be his last visit to the national stadium as Rangers manager.

The game went into extra time after the initial ninety minutes finished 1-1, with both sides scoring in the first half.

After the last Old Firm encounter and the fall out which followed, all eyes were on Hampden to witness just how the cup final would play out in front of an audience of millions of people.

The game started at a frantic pace with both teams chasing domestic treble and double feats respectively.

Celtic started the game vibrantly, looking to penetrate the Rangers defence early on through Georgios Samaras.

After a bright start from Celtic, Rangers went about asserting themselves in the game, and went close after Sasa Papac found Jelavic in the Celtic area, only for the striker to fluff his effort at goal.

From the kick-off Walter Smith’s men had a more attacking style about them than they’re used to, something Celtic were struggling to deal with.

With Rangers settled, they began to stretch the Celtic backline with influential striker Nicacki Jelavic dragging the defence about and dropping deep to pick up the ball on several occasions.

The first big decision of the game for referee Craig Thomson came in the sixteenth minute. After Mark Wilson had made his way into the Rangers penalty area, the defender went down under pressure from Steven Davis and Sasa Papac, only for Thomson to wave away any appeals for a spot kick.

Celtic should have then opened the scoring after Scott Brown found himself unmarked in the Rangers box. An enticing cross from midfielder Kris Commons was met by Brown who had surged forward from nowhere to throw himself at the oncoming ball, only to see his thunderous header blaze wide of the target. The Celtic captain was left to reflect on the effort, knowing he should have done better.

With the game being played at such a frantic pace, the idea of a scoreless draw was never on the cards, and in the 24th minute it was Rangers who took the lead. After a hopeful long ball forward from Rangers, Charlie Mulgrew’s clearing header fell to midfielder Steven Davis. With the Ulsterman advancing and the Celtic defence failing to shut him down, his left footed strike caught Fraser Forster flat footed with the effort going in off the keeper’s left hand post to put Walter Smith’s men one goal up.

The goal from Davis galvanised the Rangers side, with them showing a dogged determination to hold onto the lead over their rivals. With Rangers competing for every ball and looking to expand their lead, Celtic looked somewhat shell shocked after going a goal down.

Rangers lead however was to last only seven minutes with Joe Ledley equalising for the hoops. After failing to prevent a cross from Celtic’s Izaguirre, the ball was nodded on from Samaras to Ledley, who beat the static David Weir in the air to head past a helpless Neil Alexander and level the game for Neil Lennon’s team.

ledley goal

If the game wasn’t already frantic enough, things took a confusing turn in the 32nd minute. With Jelavic making his way into the Celtic area, some fancy footwork saw the striker pass Thomas Rogne, only to go down under a tackle from the stand in centre half. As Jelavic went down, referee Thomson immediately pointed to the spot seemingly awarding Rangers a penalty. As the Celtic defence protested, Thomson produced a yellow card with the players unaware as to who had been booked. As everything settled down, Thomson had changed his mind on the penalty award after receiving information from one of his officials, booking Jelavic for diving and awarding Celtic a free kick.

Both sides were producing a fantastic game for the neutral with the final being played from end to end, at what felt like one hundred miles per hour.

As the half drew to a close, both sides went close, Hooper trying his luck from distance for Celtic and both Bougherra and Lafferty heading wide for Rangers.

When the teams re-emerged for the second half, Rangers set about their task and got of to a flying start, almost taking the lead only a minute after the restart.

After a stinging cross from Gregg Wylde, the approaching Lafferty failed to connect with the goal at his mercy. With the Celtic defence failing to clear their lines, the ball came into Steven Whittaker’s path with the versatile full back powering his effort toward the Celtic goal, only for Fraser Forster to palm wide for a Rangers corner.

With Walter Smith’s team being questioned in the wake of recent Old Firm defeats, the veteran must have been pleased as his side began to grow in confidence and take a stranglehold of the game against their rivals.

Rangers again went close, as Steven Naismith infiltrated the Celtic box, squaring across the face of goal with none of his team mates able to connect with pass and Celtic clearing for yet another Rangers corner. As Wylde fired in the cross it was David Weir’s turn to try his luck, watching his headed effort sail wide of the Celtic goal.

Celtic’s first opportunity of the second half fell quite ironically to Sasa Papac. After Scott Brown had found Commons in acres of pace inside the Rangers area, the midfielder attempted to fire the ball low across the Rangers goalmouth, only for it to deflect of Papac and simmer narrowly past the post of Neil Alexander.

Much of the second half display was not one people have come to expect of Neil Lennon’s Celtic team, gifting Rangers possession and looking extremely lacklustre in the final third of the park. Lennon cut a desolate figure in the main stand of Hampden, with the manager currently serving a touchline ban for misconduct imposed by the SFA.

Papac was then next to go into Craig Thomson’s book, with the Rangers full back booked for a cynical tackle on Izaguirre as the Honduran ploughed forward on the counter attack.

With Rangers dominating the game without producing a second goal, Celtic almost edged the lead with their first clear cut chance of the second period. With the ball falling to Samaras, the Greek striker should have produced a better effort, instead blasting his strike high and wide beyond the goal.

There were then feverous appeals for a penalty from the Rangers players as Mark Wilson looked to have handled inside the box. As Rangers sought a second goal, Edu came into possession, attempting to nick the ball past Wilson, with the defender appearing to move his arm into the ball’s path. It was another big call from Craig Thomson who waved away the appeals for a spot kick, much to the dismay of the Rangers players.

With only one penalty being awarded in league cup finals in the past twenty years, it looked as though it would take a stonewall incident to prise a spot kick from the official, this being the third appeal to be waved away.

Just after the hour mark Celtic were forced into a substitution with Captain Scott Brown going off injured, being replaced by Ki Sung-Yeung.

Celtic goalkeeper Forster was again called into action as Wylde fired a free kick toward goal, forcing the on loan Newcastle keeper to palm over the bar. From the resulting corner David Weir again rose highest to head wide, with Rangers dominating in the air from set pieces.

Celtic’s centre half pairing of Rogne and Mulgrew looked somewhat suspect all afternoon and when Jelavic left Rogne for dead, it was down to Mulgrew to step in and save the defenders blushes, clearing to safety. This was to be Rognes’ final contribution of the game with him being taken off for Glenn Loovens, having endured a torrid afternoon at the hands of Nikica Jelavic.

Celtic again appeared ready to pounce and steal the victory after some rapid counter attacking football. With Celtic bursting forward striker Gary Hooper found the ball at his feet, only to blast over the bar, summing up a miserable afternoon for the normally influential forward.

Rangers where then forced to reshuffle the pack as Bougherra limped off injured, to be replaced by Kyle Hutton. With Steven Whittaker filling in at centre half, Mo Edu moved to right back with Hutton filling the void in the middle of the park.

The game was now one of a scrappy nature, with neither side carving out a clear cut chance in the closing stages.

With the match limping toward extra time, Rangers introduced Vladimir Weiss to the action for Kyle Lafferty. The last action of the original ninety minutes was from Weiss, who blasted a free kick from all of 25 yards into the Celtic wall.

And so we had extra time. The same outcome the last time the sides met in the League Cup final, in 2009.

There would have been few who doubted that Celtic would now go on to win the final, questioning whether or not Smith’s team had the energy, impetus or momentum left in the tank to mount a final challenge against their bitter rivals.

How wrong they were.

Much like the restart of the second half, Rangers began extra time the stronger of the two sides. Questions about the Rangers team were now dust in the wind as the team from Govan looked to secure their first trophy of the season.

Rangers again tested Forster, this time through Jelavic who was having his best afternoon yet in a Rangers jersey. After his free kick was deflected by the Celtic wall and looking goal bound Forster’s outstretched arm was all that prevented the Croatian striker from giving Rangers the lead.

Jelavic however would go one better with his next attempt on the Celtic goal.

After Rangers were awarded a free kick just inside Celtic’s half, some quick thinking from super sub Weiss saw him play Jelavic in through the middle with a quick free kick. As the striker confidently saw off Charlie Mulgrew, he calmly slotted the ball past the oncoming Forster. As the ball rolled past the keeper, it came off his post, spinning across the goal and taking what seemed like an eternity to cross the line, sparking euphoric scenes from the Rangers support at Hampden.

Just after half time Mulgrew was lucky not to see red after a one on one encounter resulted in him bringing down Jelevic just outside the area. Referee Thomson deemed a yellow card satisfactory for the defender, who could count himself lucky not to be taking an early bath.

With Rangers heading toward retaining the league cup Jelavic was withdrawn from the action to a roaring reception, making way for controversial figure El-Hadji Diouf.

The Senegalese internationals first act of the game was to set up Weiss who could have put the game beyond Celtic had it not been for Forster who had to be at full stretch to prevent the sub making it 3-1 to Rangers.

Gary Hooper then went close for Celtic, seeing his shot charged down by Steven Whittaker with the defender doing well to get across and stop the striker equalising for Lennon’s team.

Celtic’s day then went from bad to worse as Emilio Izaguirre was shown a straight red card for a professional foul on Vladimir Weiss. After Fraser Forster had come up for a late Celtic corner, Rangers broke through Weiss who proceeded to thunder down the left flank only to be stopped in his tracks by the Honduran defender. As Forster was out of his goal it was deemed to be a goal scoring opportunity, with Izaguirre taking the long walk down the tunnel for the foul.

With that the final whistle sounded much to the delight of Walter Smith and Rangers manager in waiting, Ally McCoist.

For Smith, this will be right up there with the best of cup finals he’s been part of, savouring the victory in the midst of so many who doubted his squads ability to pick themselves up after the recent Old Firm defeats.

Neil Lennon is left to reflect on a poor Celtic performance, and with this he is forced to wait for what will be his first trophy as Celtic manager.

 

Teams:

Celtic:

26 Forster
03 Izaguirre
12 Wilson
21 Mulgrew
25 Rogne (72, Loovens)
08 Brown (64, Ki Sung-Yeung)
16 Ledley
33 Baram Kayal
09 Samaras
15 Commons (102, McCourt)
88 Hooper

 

Subs:

24 Zaluska
22 Loovens
18 Ki Sung-Yeung
20 McCourt
10 Stokes

 

 

Rangers:

25 Alexander
03 Weir
05 Papac
16 Whittaker
24 Bougherra (81, Hutton)
39 Wylde
07 Edu
08 Davis
11 Lafferty (92, Weiss)
14 Naismith
18 Jelavic (116, Diouf)

 

Subs:

01 McGregor
20 Weiss
15 Healy
17 Diouf
41 Hutton

 

Bookings:

Celtic:
Kayal
Wilson
Mulgrew

Rangers:
Jelivic
Papac
Diouf

 

Sendings Off:
Izaguirre

 

Man of the Match:
Nikica Jelavic (Rangers)

 

Referee:
Craig Thomson

 

Attendance:
51,181

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