Dessers double sets up Old Firm Scottish Cup final

Rangers ended a turbulent week on a high as Cyriel Dessers scored twice in a 2-0 victory over Hearts to set up a Scottish Cup final showdown against Celtic.

Boss Phillipe Clement demanded a reaction from his Rangers players in the semi-final after a three-game winless run left them three points behind their Old Firm rivals in the title race.

Dessers gave the Ibrox side the perfect start at Hampden when he fired a low shot past Craig Gordon after just five minutes.

Hearts, who have never beaten Rangers at the national stadium, missed opportunities before the forward made sure of the first Old Firm Scottish Cup final for over 20 years when he thumped home a second late on.

With the League Cup already secured, Clement’s side could still clinch a domestic treble this season.

Rangers recover to reach final

Rangers will face Celtic in the Scottish Cup final on May 25
Rangers will face Celtic in the Scottish Cup final on May 25

Both sides had a lot to live up to following Saturday’s epic semi-final between Celtic and Aberdeen, which the Hoops won 6-5 on penalties after a 3-3 draw, but the game had less excitement and less quality.

The Jambos had lost four times to Rangers this season, once in the Viaplay Cup semi-final at the national stadium and had not beaten the Light Blues in their last 17 attempts.

The statistics – but not Rangers’ recent form – pointed to another Gers victory.

The Ibrox side went into the game with just two wins in eight in all competitions and the pressure was on Clement and his players.

Team news

  • Philippe Clement boldly omitted Connor Goldson, who had played in 48 of Rangers’ 52 games this season, with Leon Balogun, Mohamed Diomande, Rabbi Matondo and Cyriel Dessers returning.
  • Hearts, sitting strongly in third place in the league with one defeat in seven, showed three changes with Stephen Kingsley, Alan Forrest and Kenneth Vargas starting.

Dessers missed the first chance in the third minute when he knocked a cross from Abdallah Sima over the bar as Tynecastle defender Frankie Kent challenged.

However, when Gers midfielder Todd Cantwell set him up inside the box he confidently dragged the ball to his left past Nathaniel Atkinson and steered it low past veteran Jambos ‘keeper Gordon for his 18th goal of the season.

That settled the Ibrox men but they suffered a blow after just 15 minutes when winger Ross McCausland replaced the injured Sima.

The change seemed to disrupt Rangers and ‘keeper Jack Butland had to make terrific saves from Alan Forrest and Kent in quick succession, although Kent appeared offside at his close-range effort.

The Gorgie side began to exert more control towards the interval, pushing Rangers backwards, and in the 51st minute Vargas robbed hesitating Gers defender John Souttar on the touchline and drove into the Gers box, but there were enough Light Blues jerseys back to defend.

Hearts have never managed to beat Rangers at Hampden Park
Hearts have never managed to beat Rangers at Hampden Park

The Edinburgh side were in control

Hearts brought on Dexter Lembikisa, Barrie McKay and Yutaro Oda for Forrest, Jorge Grant and Atkinson just on the hour mark before Fabio Silva took over from the ineffective Rabbi Matondo, before Dessers could not set himself for a shot after taking a Cantwell pass 10 yards from goal.

In the 73rd minute, Hearts skipper Lawrence Shankland hit the side-netting with a header as the Tynecastle men piled forward.

However, in a swift Gers attack, Dessers settled the tie.

Rangers will play Celtic in the Scottish Cup final on May 25

A powerful run by Cantwell had the Gorgie defence backpedalling and when he laid the ball off to the Gers striker his first shot was blocked by Gordon, but he made no mistake when collecting the rebound.

With two minutes remaining Dessers set up Silva for a tap-in but the Portuguese attacker somehow managed to fall over the ball six yards out, before Butland made a fantastic save from Oda, to ensure there were no late Rangers nerves, with time for Dessers to miss another opportunity on the break.

What the managers said…

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Rangers manager Philippe Clement insists he got what he demanded from his players as they ended a turbulent week with a place in the Scottish Cup final

Rangers boss Philippe Clement: “To say it’s pleasing is not a good word. It’s what I expected, it’s what I demanded, it’s what I wanted.

“I was totally not pleased about the game after Ross County, with how we lost our structure and lost our normal football.

“Against Dundee we were too much in a rush to score a goal and today we found the right balance again. It’s what we have been doing for a lot of months now.

“It’s been challenging in the last couple of months with all the injuries and players in and out. We have been lacking rhythm but today, if you see the bench, it is stronger again and that’s going to be important in the next couple of weeks when it’s one game a week.

“Before these cup semi-finals we were the only team that played during the week. It makes a difference and you need to look at that if you have three games in seven or eight days.

“With players coming out of injury you cannot let them play all the minutes. It’s been a puzzle around that but now, in this last part of the season, it’s going to be a challenge in the squad with players coming back.

“Quality then rises in the training and quality rises in the game also because we have a strong bench.”

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Hearts head coach Steven Naismith wants his young squad to learn from their Scottish Cup semi-final loss to Rangers, their second Hampden defeat of the season

Hearts head coach Steven Naismith: “Frustrated, disappointed obviously with the outcome because I’m somebody who wants to win.

“We got off to a terrible start, we can’t lose a cheap early goal like we did, but then the reaction from then to the second goal was good.

“We controlled the ball a lot, we created opportunities and then I think what you see is our immaturity in the final third.

“We had four or five really good situations and we either pick the wrong option, overhit a pass or we don’t get the finish. In those moments we must hit the target or make the goalie make a save.

“That’s the biggest frustration for me because we got good opportunities that we didn’t take and the goals we concede are cheap.”

What’s next?

Hearts’ next match is away to Kilmarnock on April 27. Kick-off 3pm.

Rangers return to Scottish Premiership action on April 28 at St Mirren, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off 12.30pm.

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