Giovanni van Bronckhorst beams in press conference as he speaks of pride, character and Scott Arfield
Proud Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst hailed the resilience and character of his team after they came back from behind to defeat Celtic 2-1 after extra time and seal a Scottish Cup final date with Hearts next month.
In what was an enthralling Old Firm derby at Hampden, Celtic took a 64th-minute lead through a deflected Greg Taylor strike and after the exertions of Thursday night, when Rangers needed 120 minutes to edge past Braga in the Europa League, the expectation was that Celtic would go on to power past their rivals.
However, Rangers dug deep and equalised via Scott Arfield on 78 minutes and went on to finish strongly, grabbing a winner on 114 minutes when Carl Starfelt deflected a Calvin Bassey cross into his own net.
Rangers now have the chance to lift the Scottish Cup for the first time since 2009 when they face Robbie Neilson’s Hearts on May 21 – a repeat of the 1998 final, which the Jambos won 2-1.
“It was a very proud moment for me to see my side play like that,” said Van Bronckhorst. “We had to dig deep after a demanding game against Braga. But I think today our character was phenomenal, especially because we knew that Celtic were coming at us fresh. In the moment the guys did terrific.
"In the first-half we created good chances to score. But when we got the goal against us we knew we had to dig even deeper. But in this moment we were there. The substitutions made quite a positive impact for the team – fresh legs. We controlled the game after that. You know when you are playing a semi-final and it goes to extra-time players get tired and make more mistakes. We know that when we scored in the second-half of extra-time it was a vital moment. Luckily for us we scored the winner.”
Van Bronckhorst said he was not surprised by the energy levels of his team and said that he knew there was enough fortitude within the group to retrieve the one-goal deficit.
“We know that when we play the way we can this team has a lot of character,” the Dutchman continued. “That was the thing that happened today. But also physically I think we looked really strong. Aaron [Ramsey] came off with an injury, but most of the players looked really strong, throughout the extra-time as well. We were able to change some players. It is always nice to win a semi-final, but it is nice when the subs make contributions. It was a real team performance and that is what I am most proud of.”
Van Bronckhorst also singled out praise for Arfield, who missed a very presentable opportunity against Braga, for hauling his team back into this match.
“Of course. Scott is always trying to score,” added Van Bronckhorst. “He missed a very good chance on Thursday, but he is always a player who can come in those spaces and try to score. Today he did it perfectly. I am very happy for him, but I am happy for all of us that we scored the equaliser.”