Glasgow Rangers completed the first leg of a potential treble this afternoon defeating underdogs St. Mirren in the 50th Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Walter Smith’s men rode their luck in the first half and were reduced to nine men in the second half but their quality came through in the end as an 84th minute winner from Kenny Miller secured Rangers a record extending 26th triumph in this competition.
The first half produced little goalmouth action for the first thirty minutes with Rangers’ Steven Whittaker having the first shot on target in the 25th minute but it failed to trouble St. Mirren keeper Paul Gallacher. Kenny Miller also had a chance on 34 minutes but his chance blazed high and wide after making a run through the middle into the penalty area. Saints’ first real chance came after Rangers’ keeper Neil Alexander mis-controlled the ball from a back pass and allowed Jack Ross to put in a sliding tackle but the ‘keeper was adjudged to have been fouled. For the last five minutes of the half Saints upped-the-ante with great chances from Steven Thomson, David Barron (whose long-range effort hit the bar) and Michael Higdon but all were unsuccessful and the Buddies were justifiably disappointed at going in goalless at half-time.
The game became contentious early in the second half with both teams getting physical. Rangers’ Kevin Thomson was the first player sent off after a rash tackle from behind on St. Mirren’s Steven Thomson. Even team coaches Walter Smith and Gus MacPherson were seen arguing on the touchline as both sides became embroiled in a slanging match. St. Mirren tried to take the game to the ten men of Rangers but it was the Scottish Premier League (SPL) leaders who had the next big chance in the 65th minute when a Nacho Novo free kick eventually found Kenny Miller amongst a melee of players in the penalty area but his shot was blocked five yards out by Michael Higdon. Six minutes later the Gers were down to nine men as defender Danny Wilson was shown the red card after a pull of the arm of Saints’ substitute Craig Dargo just outside the penalty area. However this seemed to make Rangers more determined to keep out the challenge from the Paisley side, who are second from bottom in the SPL, and when Steven Naismith came on as a 79th minute substitute for Kris Boyd it eventually proved to be the pivotal moment of the match. Five minutes after coming on Naismith ran with the ball from deep inside his own half leading the way in a three-against-three situation and his cross perfectly found the head of Kenny Miller who headed low into the bottom right corner of the net to give Rangers the lead. Saints pressed forward to get an equalizer but they couldn’t break down a resolute Rangers defence.
The final whistle blew and most of the 44,538 crowd would go home celebrating the first silverware of the season for Rangers with the SPL trophy almost certain to be joining it in the near future. With a Scottish Cup quarter-final replay against Dundee United to come there is still potential for Rangers to win an eighth domestic treble. For St. Mirren a battle against relegation is the basis for the rest of the season but the club can be proud of their efforts in their first domestic cup final since 1987 even if they eventually ended up empty-handed.