Saturday, 30 May 2009

Rangers 1 Falkirk 0

Rangers won the 124th Scottish Cup final with a strike from Nacho Novo (below) just after Half time. His strike, a powerful, dipping shot at an angle from out side of the box, was one of the great Hampden goals and lit up a mostly tactical game. This cup win makes it an 18th League and Cup double, and Walter Smith’s 3rd double in his two terms as Rangers manager.

The score however masks the contribution Falkirk made to this game. Falkirk’s possession, and the extra man in midfield, caused serious problems for Rangers. So much so that Falkirk dominated the first half. They created 3 clear cut chances in the first half, however their failure to convert possession into goals cost them dear today.

Firstly Burton O’Brien had a shot from outside of the box go over. With 16 minutes gone Neil McCann, going for his 6th winners medal wriggled free of a challenge and hit the bar with a shot, his next chance was closer. 4 minutes later a cross from Barr probably came at McCann a bit too quickly, and he put the shot wide.

Rangers had to make changes, their central midfield pairing of Barry Ferguson and Lee McCulloch were being over-run. They did finish the half strongly by forcing a series of corners. For the second half, Rangers brought off Kris Boyd, and brought on Novo, and went to a 3-5-2. The difference was immediate as Rangers got their spectacular winner in the 28th second of the second half. Rangers then dominated the next 20 minutes as they then kept the ball. Lafferty was almost in for the second 5 minutes later, but Falkirk kept them out.

It was Falkirk’s time to make changes, and they brought on Higdon, Finnigan and Stewart. This pushed Rangers back into their box, as the chances started to come for Falkirk. Finnigan had a goal disallowed for offside, while with 8 minutes to go, a Lovell shot narrowly hit the post. Rangers were only just still on their feet when the final whistle went.

For Rangers, this was their 33rd Scottish Cup win. They are now one behind Celtic’s record. They can now afford to put this season behind them, with a sense of satisfaction. After last week’s championship win, Rangers go straight into the group stages of the European Cup, manager-less Celtic have to try and get in through the problematic preliminary rounds. There may be some issues still surrounding the Booze-gate 2, and this story might come to a conclusion during the close season. But by and large, this has been a good season for Rangers.

For Falkirk, the game was their season in a microcosm. They played good football, but like several of the teams at the bottom of the SPL, lacked the ability to convert good possession into goals. Their manager John Hughes was under incredible pressure for much of the season, part of the bi-product of there not being an outstandingly bad team in the SPL this season. Hughes has, somewhat unwisely, never hidden his desire to go far in management. After staying up, Hughes maybe contemplating a change in job. After all, after the departure of Mixu Paatelinen from Hibernian last night, there are now 3 vacancies in the upper reaches of the Scottish football hierarchy

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