In a match where desire, inspiration and luck were required, Rangers put in an abject performance to lose 4-0 to Celtic in the Scottish Cup Semi Final. This was a horrible display, where everyone let themselves down. The manager got it wrong, the players lost every battle, and the result could have been far worse.
Rangers started the match with Andy Halliday in midfield, moving to a 4-3-3. As predicted, Celtic went to a 4-2-3-1, with McGregor on the left and Lustig in at right back. Before the match, you would have been forgiven for thinking it would be a less open game than the last meeting between the sides at Ibrox.
Inside 5 minutes, Celtic had shown they were far more comfortable on the day. A cross from the right found Dembele in space, and he hit the post with a good volley. Replays showed he was offside, but no flag came. It was clear that Rangers were looking to play differently than they did at Ibrox. Murphy was tucked inside when defending, closer to Ntcham than Lustig. The midfield three were sitting off, allowing Celtic easy possession. Up front, Morelos was isolated and asked to try and hold the ball up and win fouls.
Rangers were losing possession really easily. Simple passes were going astray, and they weren’t winning challenges. Whilst there wasn’t much by way of clear cut chances, it was obvious Celtic would score first. On the 22nd minute, they opened the scoring. Forrest was allowed to cut a ball across the box which found Rogic. He was able to take a couple of touches, make a little space, and slot the ball into the bottom corner with his right foot.
Any hope of a reaction from Rangers was proven to be a futile one. The pattern of the match didn’t change from there, with Celtic still dominant. The only real chance Rangers created came from Candeias getting free on the right. He drove into the box, but couldn’t find either Morelos or Dorrans with his cross and the ball was cleared.
Celtic scored their second on the 38th minute. A cross for the left should have been dealt with easily. Somehow, Russell Martin completely messed up his clearance, and the ball fell to McGregor in the box. He had time to take a touch and curled an effort past Foderingham to extend the lead.
Rangers made a substitution just after the goal, with Windass replacing Halliday. The midfielder was very angry at being brought off in the first half, and let his manager know.
Rangers needed a huge response in the second half. There were a couple of signs of something happening, with a few more tackles being won and pressing higher up the pitch. All of that was killed when Celtic scored their third. A ball over the top saw McCrorie muscled out by Dembele, and the young defender pulled the player to the ground in the box. A penalty was awarded, and a red card shown to McCrorie. There could be no argument about the decision. Moussa Dembele took the penalty, and scored with a weak chip down the middle as Foderingham went to his left.
Down to 10 men and 3-0 down, Rangers were looking to control the damage from that moment. Bruno Alves replaced Candeias, who was also unhappy at being taken off. Somehow, Rangers had their best spell of the match straight after that.
A good cross from Tavernier was met by Morelos, and his header was well saved by Gordon. From the corner, Alves had a strong effort, but again Gordon made the save. Not long after that, Dorrans attempted a through ball to Windass, which Ajer took a wild swipe at. His clearance hit the bar and fell to Morelos. With time to take a touch and Gordon on the ground, Morelos somehow hit the keeper with his effort. This was as big a sitter as the one he had in the game at Ibrox.
Despite some aggression from players and numerous bookings, the game was pretty much being played out. Celtic were keeping the ball easily, and Rangers couldn’t press with the 10 men. Celtic did score another from a penalty, as Holt fouled Roberts. Ntcham took the penalty, with Dembele refusing after his first, and scored despite Foderingham guessing the right way.
There was nothing of note after that, with Rangers well beaten and Celtic strolling through the game. The end of the match saw an argument between Morelos and Docherty as they went off the park, with more passion there than the players had shown on the pitch.
As much as every Rangers fan hates to admit it, we know that Celtic have stronger, fitter and better players than we do. They also have strength in depth which we lack. For a team with three times the wage bill, that should be expected. What can’t be forgive, with that in mind, is such a meek effort at bridging that gap. Sitting off and letting Celtic play hasn’t worked for anyone this season. Why it was the approach of the players is a mystery. It was clear they had no faith in each other, and no desire to work as a team. Players shouting at the manager and fighting at the end of the game prove that their energy is going towards the wrong things. There’s a real problem in the Rangers dressing room right now, and it’s going to take some work to fix it.
Celtic deserved their victory, and if we’re honest, could have scored more than four. I’d hoped a bit of sleep and reflection would ease my frustration from the game, but I find as I write this that I’m more angry than I was at the time. I would imagine most Rangers fans feel the same way.
Foderingham; Tavernier, John, Dorrans (Holt, 71), Halliday (Windass, 40), Morelos, Candeias (Alves, 52), Murphy, Martin, McCrorie, Docherty.
SUBS NOT USED: Alnwick, Miller, Hodson, Cummings.
Gordon, Brown, Dembele (Griffiths, 82), Rogic (Sinclair, 60), Boyata, Ntcham, Lustig, Ajer, McGregor, Forrest (Roberts, 71), Tierney.
SUBS NOT USED: Bain, Simunovic, Edouard, Kouassi.