Celtic-Rangers verdict: Can Rodgers keep Ibrox, the cruel denouement, pitch invasion and telling family section

Celtic were far from their best against Rangers – yet they still left Hampden with the Scottish Cup

Brendan Rodgers will surely be permitted to keep Rangers soon. In the meantime, his team retain possession of the Scottish Cup to further enhance the Celtic manager’s remarkable success rate in this fixture. It now stands at just one defeat against Rangers in 18 meetings over two spells.

Philippe Clement is now firmly lodged at the other end of the scale. Failure to win any of the first four Old Firm appointments doesn’t sound like a recipe for success for a Rangers or Celtic manager and the pressure on the Belgian is growing considerably. All eyes will be on the first meeting next season. It's already bordering on must-win territory for Clement.

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Rodgers has lost none of his Old Firm alchemy during his time away. Even when his team are a clear second best they find a way to prevail. It seems he can do no wrong. Rodgers plucks a striker from England who is unable to get a game for Norwich City and he turns into a cup-final hero with a last-minute winner on the 57th anniversary of the Lisbon Lions.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers with the Scottish Cup.Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers with the Scottish Cup.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers with the Scottish Cup.

Step forward Adam Idah, whose last act of his Celtic career might have been to secure the double for the Parkhead club. Even Rodgers could not bring himself to claim afterwards that he had reminded the players of the significance of the date. “I’d be lying if I said I talked about that,” he said, “because I didn’t. I think the significance for us will come afterwards. This is an iconic date that’s synonymous with this club and always will be, but this will join it.”

Idah knows he won’t ever find himself as revered as European Cup heroes like Stevie Chalmers and Tommy Gemmell – indeed, he might not ever become a perman ent Celtic player. That remains to be resolved this summer. Whatever happens in terms of his future, he wrote himself into the history books by being first to react after Jack Butland failed to cope with substitute Paulo Bernardo’s drive, pushing it back out at Idah’s feet. The striker drilled into the net.

How cruel this was on the Rangers goalkeeper, the Ibrox side’s standout performer this season. He cut a lonely figure at the end and was comforted by Joe Hart, his opposite number and compatriot and whose career ended here on a high and with a clean sheet. It was an emotional snapshot away from the primary focus of many people’s attention, which was some evidence of simmering resentment between players carried over from the 90 minutes. The scuffling quickly petered out. It was never really that kind of game.

The knife was twisted after the final whistle for Rangers as Celtic fans spilled onto the running track at their end in scenes that recalled – although were not nearly as exuberant – the aftermath of Hibs’ memorable Scottish Cup final victory over the Ibrox side in 2016. The presentation had to be delayed until these supporters returned to their seats. The Rangers players stood around looking forlorn before Clement gathered them around for a quick debrief. Not so long ago the tantalising prospect of a treble was in the gift of this set of players, although it must be acknowledged that several potential difference-makers were sitting in the family section of the south stand with their loved ones, Connor Goldson and John Souttar among them. Maybe one of this sidelined centre-half pairing would have reacted faster following Butland’s fumble, or prevented Bernardo running so freely at a tired Rangers backline.

Rangers' Nicolas Raskin looks dejected at full time as manager Philippe Clement approaches him.Rangers' Nicolas Raskin looks dejected at full time as manager Philippe Clement approaches him.
Rangers' Nicolas Raskin looks dejected at full time as manager Philippe Clement approaches him.

The inquest can wait. Rangers quickly departed down the tunnel after picking up their losers’ medals once the security green light was given. The way was now clear for Celtic to ascend the stairs, which was a welcome return of the traditional arrangement of presenting the trophy. It was awarded to Celtic on a podium on the pitch 12 months ago after their victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Still, it doesn't matter where they receive cups, as long as they get them. “I knew I had to win,” said Rodgers later. “You have to win at Celtic.” With this victory a profound realignment takes place: Celtic join Rangers on 118 major trophies. They will aim to equal the Ibrox side’s 55 top-flight titles next season. Who would bet against them?

Celtic even win when not playing well. Rangers were better but their performance still underlined their flaws, mainly an inability to take chances. The occasion might have demanded a classic but the teams stubbornly refused to provide one in the 150th year of the Scottish Cup.

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There was a goal chopped off in the first one, too, back in 1874, though not due to VAR. Clydesdale were the team denied and Queen’s Park eventually claimed a trophy, the same one Callum McGregor and Hart lifted here, with a 2-0 win. Rangers were left lamenting the introduction of pitch-side technology, after substitute Abdallah Sima kneed the ball in from a James Tavernier corner. Replays later showed Nicolas Raskin placing two hands on Hart’s back.

Celtic's Joe Hart takes a picture of the squad.Celtic's Joe Hart takes a picture of the squad.
Celtic's Joe Hart takes a picture of the squad.

Amid the drama of the disallowed goal, Kyogo Furuhashi sneaked off barely unnoticed – as he had been in the preceding 62 minutes – to be replaced by Idah. There was ferment in the stands, as both sets of fans dealt with the quick shift in emotions. Rodgers remained coolly decisive. He switched his strikers and changed the course of the game, although Rangers still created half-chances. Sima fluffed a shot and Raskin fizzed the ball across goal that Cameron Carter-Vickers prodded to safety.

The benched John Lundstram resisted any urge to sulk on from the sidelines and cheered Rangers on as heartily as anyone as he warmed up. He was sent on in the final moments as Hampden continued digesting what everyone knew had been the decisive moment courtesy of the alert Idah. It was the classic sucker-punch. There was no coming back from Rangers. They had given everything and it still wasn’t enough.

Lundstram’s entrance felt more like the keeping of a promise than a genuine move to try to save the game in the brief time there was left. The Liverpudlian has now played his final game for the club, as have others, including, perhaps, the ineffectual Todd Cantwell, who was replaced after 72 minutes and got booked for mouthing off at Greg Taylor before departing. Things must change at Ibrox.



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