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Celtic 1-2 Rangers (AET): Ibrox side fight and seize chance to end Hampden woes

Borna Barisic and Scott Arfield celebrate during a Scottish Cup Semi-Final between Celtic and Rangers at Hampden Park
Rangers will have the chance to win the Scottish Cup for the first time since 2009 against Hearts next month

When the full-time whistle went at Hampden the visceral relief was palpable among those connected with Rangers – their national stadium hoodoo, and Celtic’s treble hopes, were over.

A hard-fought, comeback win gives them the chance to win a first major domestic cup since 2011 when they face Hearts next month, as well as making sure their foes do not rack up a 12th in the same period.

It is that stark difference in silverware over the past decade that makes this triumph all the more vital for those at Ibrox.

Before the semi-final, Rangers had won two of their previous 11 games at Hampden, losing both finals they have managed to reach in a decade of disappointment.

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So if last season’s league title win, which dented Celtic’s 10-in-a-row bid, was critical on their journey back, then this defeat of their rivals is another significant milestone for this particular group of Rangers players.

Allowing Celtic to win a 19th straight cup tie at Hampden, and a shot at a fifth treble in six seasons, would have left last season’s Premiership victory as the sole bit of silver light in an otherwise gloomy period.

Instead, with a Europa League semi-final against Leipzig to come, long-serving players like James Tavernier and Connor Goldson have the chance to make it a special season, even with their chances of winning the league appearing slim, although not irretrievable.

“It’s important to be in the final but the most important thing is to win the final, Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst told Premier Sports.

“We haven’t won anything yet in the cup. We want to achieve something and the belief is there that we can win the cup.”

Unlike in other seasons when they have been accused of some mental fragility, Rangers seem to rise to the big occasions in the cups this season.

At 1-0 down having played pretty well, Van Bronckhorst’s side could have been forgiven for toiling, especially after playing 120 minutes against Braga on Thursday night.

Instead they found the resolve to get two goals, and looked the stronger side in extra time.

“It’s been a busy week for us, very demanding physically, also mentally,” Van Bronckhorst said.

“To play extra-time two times in four days, the players were magnificent. We had to dig deep. We did it as a team and we’re proud that we’re in the final.”

Celtic ‘can’t let things fall apart’

Celtic, meanwhile, were deflated at the full-time whistle but are still in pole position to end the season as Premiership champions, having already won the League Cup this season.

Ange Postecoglou’s side are six points clear with five games to go, with one of those against Rangers at Celtic Park.

If they can close out the campaign, it would still mark a significant turnaround with an almost completely new squad after a trophy-less campaign last term.

Captain Callum McGregor got the players in for a huddle at full-time and said he stressed the importance of not letting one match derail their league ambitions.

The midfielder said: “We’ve put ourselves in a really good position through a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of dedication, a lot of good football and a lot of strength within the group, so it’s important that we don’t lose that.

“These games – semi-finals – they’re always on a knife-edge and they can go either way.

“Of course we have to be disappointed, which we are, but we have to put that out of our mind and realise that we can still make it a really successful season for the club and for ourselves as a group and, again, that will help us grow as well.

“So it’s just important that we don’t get too downbeat and let everything fall apart from one result.”

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