Glasgow (AFP) – Rangers booked a place in the Scottish Cup final after a dramatic penalty shoot-out Sunday in an action-packed semi-final against Old Firm rivals Celtic that ended 2-2 after extra-time at Hampden.
Australian international Tom Rogic blasted the decisive spot-kick over the bar to hand Rangers a 5-4 victory after Callum McGregor and Scott Brown had also missed.
Rangers could now end their four-year exile from Europe if they can defeat Hibernian in May’s final.
The match at Hampden was just the second time in four years that the Glasgow giants have clashed since Rangers were forced to start life again in the country’s bottom tier following an amazing fall from grace that resulted in liquidation in June 2012.
Rangers manager Mark Warburton was delighted with victory in his first experience of the Old Firm derby.
“We deserved to win the game of football. That’s the most pleasing thing,” Warburton said.
“I’m just delighted for the fans. They’ve been in some dark places over the last four or five years so it’s tremendous that they can enjoy days like today.”
The defeat by a side a division below them heaps more pressure on under-fire Celtic manager Ronny Deila.
“It was a real rollercoaster of a football game. It was up and down and in the end down,” said Deila, whose side remain on course for a fifth successive league title.
“I am very disappointed we lost the match but I am not satisfied with our performance.”
Veteran striker Kenny Miller, who has played for both sides of the Old Firm divide, had fired Rangers into a 16th minute lead before Patrick Roberts blew a golden chance to level for Celtic before the break when he missed an open goal.
Substitute Erik Sviatchenko had Celtic level five minutes after the break with a bullet header as the game headed to extra time.
Barrie McKay restored Rangers’ lead in the 96th minute before Rogic, who was to end the afternoon as the villain, rifled home a 106th minute leveller.
Their last meeting in January 2015 saw Celtic cruise to a 2-0 victory in the semi-final of the League Cup.
However, Rangers’ are unrecognisable from then with the new manager leading his side to the Championship title and promotion back to the top flight.
With the resumption of regular Old Firm matches in the Scottish Premiership from next season, the match was seen as a gauge of how big the gap between the sides is.
However, Rangers, with several Old Firm debutants in their side, coped well as the noise levels were cranked up and it was the Ibrox club that drew first blood through Miller.
A free-kick was only cleared as far as Halliday whose pass into the box was deflected into the path of Miller by Celtic skipper Brown and the former Hoops players swivelled to lash the ball beyond Gordon.
Celtic’s half-time team talk seemed to do the trick as they found themselves on level terms five minutes into the second half. Roberts floated a corner into the box that Sviatchenko met with a powerful header that flew into the top corner over Danny Wilson on the line.
Rangers restored their advantage six minutes into the first half of extra time with a fabulous strike from McKay. Referee Craig Thomson controversially overruled his assistant to give a throw-in to Rangers which was quickly taken to McKay who smacked an unstoppable swerving strike into the top corner from 20 yards.
Celtic levelled the match in the 106th minute as Rogic got on the end of Tierney’s cut-back to slam the ball past Foderingham before suffering heartbreak as he missed the vital spot-kick.