Buidling Dreams Together


Talking Points: The Scottish Cup



Rangers 2 Heart of Midlothian 0

As the final whistle blew, Steven Naismith was left wondering what could have been. His Hearts side have outperformed expectations this season, asserting themselves far and away as Scotland’s third best side. Unfortunately they exited the Hampden stage without ever having thrown a punch.

With Rangers looking like a lesser version of themselves in recent weeks, it was the perfect time to cause chaos with opportunities like these few and far between for sides outside the Old Firm. The Jambos put themselves in good positions, taking advantage of dilly-dallying on the ball from a few lucky Gers, but their execution was poor throughout with Kenneth Vargas just one of the many culprits squandering good opportunities. Key man Lawrence Shankland was unusually quiet and did not take the chance to enhance his reputation with many questioning his performances in the big games. Four games and four losses now to Rangers, they will have the chance to avenge themselves in the final league fixture of the season. For now, they will just have to rue a chance not seize.

Phillipe Clement for his part will have just been glad to come out of this unscathed. Following three league games without a win, it was perhaps expected to see a performance lacking in confidence. Fortunately, beyond the chance to win a second trophy of the season, there are a few positives to take away. Cyriel Dessers came out on top against Shankland, who is rumoured to be his replacement up front in the summer. Granted there were some missed opportunities, but two goals as a result of some neat footwork showed what he is capable of on his day.

Todd Cantwell put in a shift as impressive as any other this season by doing what he does best, finding space and keeping it simple. At his worst Cantwell is poor man’s Brazilian, taking defenders on but failing to beat them, or attempting skills that rarely seem to come off. At his best however, he is a nuisance for the opposition as he drifts away from markers before drawing them out of position and laying off a teammate, managing to do just that as he put Dessers away for both goals. Onto the next for Rangers with morale in a better place ahead of a gruelling few weeks.


Aberdeen 3 Celtic 3 (5-6 on penalties)

Where Shankland was quiet, Bojan Miovski certainly was not, running in behind victors to score an early opener. Saturday afternoon soon started to look a lot like another day at the office when Angus MacDonald was caught in possession by Kyogo before Nicolas Kuhn put away the saved shot. James Forrest’s introduction reaped immediate rewards as he curled in a goal from outside the box at which point it seemed game over. Yet Aberdeen kept on pushing, teaching Hearts a lesson in seizing once in a season opportunities.

A great header by Estor Sokler silenced the Celtic faithful, if only for a quarter of an hour. With seconds to go in the first-half of extra-time Matt O’Riley put them right back ahead and it seemed game over, again. A blast from the past for fans in English football by the name of Junior Hoilett was terrific in his role as a substitute, attacking down the left and creating an almost identical goal to their last, this time it was MacDonald who headed in at the back post to make amends for his earlier gaff. With a shootout now decisive to send one side to the final, a game that looked unable to give anymore drama did just that as academy graduate Ryan Duncan missed his penalty to give Celtic the chance to seal the win.

Step-up … Joe Hart?

Replicating Ederson’s successful penalty taking against Real Madrid could just be another attempt by Brendan Rodger’s to get noticed as a potential Guardiola successor but unfortunately the man pushed out by Pep failed to put his thunderos attempt away and allowed Aberdeen one final reprieve. Smirking as though untroubled by the mishap, his mistake was then made up for when he saved Killian Phillips’ effort and this time, it really was game over.

Whilst they will want to forget their league season as soon as humanly possible, supporters from the Granite City can be proud of their cup runs. Plural because a League Cup final (in which they were edged out by Rangers) and a close-run semi here is no small feat given the calamities of this past year. Hoilett and Miovski were a couple of the Dons back to their best and if they are able to keep the latter in the summer, they will hope that incoming manager Jimmy Thelin can at the least, get them back in the top half.

Celtic meanwhile might not win a treble this year, but they have given themselves every chance of preventing Rangers from doing so. Despite a shaky few games in December and February, the Hoops have looked like the better of the two Glasgow sides and, as Brendan Rodgers pointed out, this is the time of the season they come alive (interestingly, so do City). It is all to play for now.