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Cyriel Dessers double takes Rangers past Hearts to set up Old Firm cup final

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 21 Apr 2024

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A Cyriel Dessers double took Rangers past Hearts in the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup semi-final to set up an Old Firm final.

The enigmatic Gers striker slid in the opener after five minutes and then sealed the victory in the 78th minute for a 2-0 win, leaving the Tynecastle club still searching for their first win over the Ibrox side at Hampden Park.

For the most part, it was a far from sparkling performance from Philippe Clement’s side who have gone off the boil in recent weeks.

Nevertheless, Rangers will meet Celtic in the May 25 final at the national stadium by which time we will know which of the Old Firm clubs have won their cinch Premiership title race, which the Hoops are leading by three points with five fixtures remaining.

Both sides had a lot to live up to after Saturday’s epic semi-final between Celtic and Aberdeen which the Hoops won 6-5 on penalties after a 3-3 draw but in the event it 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.

The Belgian boss boldly omitted Connor Goldson, who had played in 48 of Rangers’ 52 games this season, with Leon Balogun, Mohamed Diomande, Rabbi Matondo and Dessers returning.

Hearts, sitting 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 Gorgie box he confidently dragged the ball to his left past Nathaniel Atkinson and steered it low past veteran Jambos keeper Craig Gordon for his 18th of the season.

The goal 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 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 box but there were enough Light Blue jerseys back to defend.

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 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.

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 to ensure there were no late Rangers nerves, with time for Dessers to miss another opportunity on the break.

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