A LAST-MINUTE goal from substitute Adam Idah ensured that Celtic beat Rangers in the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup final at Hampden this afternoon and completed a league and cup double.

Brendan Rodgers’ side were far from their best against Philippe Clement’s team and were fortunate to still be level with their city rivals when Idah netted.

But the Ibrox club, who had an Abdallah Sima strike chalked off in the second-half following a VAR check, proved unable to capitalise on their superiority and paid the price for that failing at the death.

Replacement Paulo Bernardo danced out of a challenge by Nicolas Raskin in the centre circle, advanced upfield and unleashed a wicked curling shot which Rangers goalkeeper Jack Butland could only parry.

Idah, the Norwich City loanee, ghosted in and broke the deadlock to sent the Celtic supporters behind the goal wild. Here are five talking points from the cinch Premiership champions’ narrow triumph.

Rope-a-dope champions

The first-half was, understandably given what was at stake, cagey. Both teams had their half-chances, neither side really assumed control. Celtic were more composed in possession, Rangers looked dangerous on the counter attack.

Fabio Silva had a weak effort saved by Joe Hart, Cyriel Dessers had an attempt blocked and Ben Davies handled a Kyogo Furuhashi header in his own penalty box. But it was no surprise that the scoreline was goalless at the end of the opening 45 minutes.

There were loud claims for a penalty in the blue half of the ground two minutes before half-time when Dujon Sterling was blatantly pushed to the ground by Liam Scales. It was outside the area. Still, referee Nick Walsh should have given a free-kick.

Clement hooked Dessers at half-time and put on Sima, who has predominantly played wide on the left this term, up front. The substitute was booked early on  for kicking out at Alistair Johnston. But he made a definite difference.  

The replacement thought he had put Rangers ahead in the 59th minute when he turned a James Tavernier corner in from close range. But VAR official John Beaton spotted a two-handed shove by Nicolas Raskin on Hart and Walsh chalked the goal off after watching a replay on the pitchside monitor. It was the correct call.

But Clement’s charges had their rivals on the back foot in the second-half and their followers were by far the louder. Their work rate and commitment could not be faulted. Rodgers’ men were not allowed to dwell on the ball for a second. They looked fresher and hungrier. Butland was not seriously tested all afternoon.

Until, that is, the goal.  

Midfield battle

Rangers fans had expressed the hope that John Lundstram, whose form has, to put it politely, tailed off somewhat in the recent weeks, would not be restored to the starting line-up today.

They got their wish. Clement opted to retain Raskin in central midfield alongside Mohamed Diomande instead of bring back the man who was red carded for a rash foul on Alistair Johnston at Parkhead earlier this month.

Many Light Blues followers, though, had wanted to see Dujon Sterling deployed there instead of wide on the right and they were disappointed when the teams were announced.

Celtic had bossed the middle of the park in all of their previous encounters with Rangers this season. Would Raskin, Diomande and Todd Cantwell be able to gain the upper hand on Callum McGregor, Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley? They fared far better than they had.

Diomande, in particular, impressed. The man who committed his international future to the Ivory Coast this week was a bundle of energy. He tracked back, got forward, threw himself into tackles with scant regard for his own wellbeing.

Raskin, his foolish push on Hart aside, was decent too.  Cantwell buzzed about before making way for Scott Wright late on. They provided a platform for their forwards to play on. Unfortunately for them, they were lacking a cutting edge in the final third. 

History Bhoy

James Forrest edged ahead of Billy McNeill in the Celtic trophy table with the Parkhead club’s victory this afternoon. The winger, who looked a threat whenever he was involved, has now laid his hands on silverware on 24 occasions in his career, one more than European Cup captain Billy McNeill.

If he wins one more he will equal the record haul currently held by his fellow Ayrshireman Bobby Lennox. You would not bet against him doing so with Rodgers in charge. The Northern Irishman is still undefeated in the Scottish Cup. He has now won all 17 of the games he has overseen.  

It was, too, a fitting way for former England goalkeeper Hart to bring the curtain down on his distinguished playing days. 

Tired Tav

Leon Balogun, who had not been sighted since coming off at half-time against Kilmarnock earlier this month, and Ridvan Yilmaz, who suffered a new knock against Hearts last weekend, slotted in to the Rangers defence at centre-half and left-back respectively.

Balogun slid in and dispossessed Daizen Maeda in his area early on after the Celtic winger had skipped past Tavernier down the left flank and then diverted a Maeda delivery that was intended for Furuhashi in the six yard box past his post. That very much set the tone for his fine display.  

His captain, however, failed to perform. The right back looked very much like a man who was playing his 58th game of the 2023/24 campaign. New Rangers signing Jefte watched proceedings from the main stand and was mobbed by Bears seeking selfies. The young Brazilian will fancy his chances of getting in the first team on this evidence. 

Pyro shame

The Scottish government announced that an expert group comprising representatives from the SFA, the SPFL, the Football Safety Officers Association, Police Scotland and the Crown Office had been set up to consider the use of football banning orders as a penalty for pyrotechnic possession and misuse.

It is high time that somebody somewhere tackled what has been a serious problem in the Scottish game for some time now. The ultra element among both supports set off smoke bombs and flares as the teams emerged from the tunnel. Rangers fans fired rockets into the air and many of them used poles to do. More flares followed at the start of the second-half.

Such scenes, alas, have become the norm at Hampden on such occasions. It may look colourful and it might, for some at least, enhance the big match atmosphere. But they are, as the young Dundee fan who was scarred for life by a flare back in March will testify, highly dangerous inside grounds. They must be snuffed out.The Herald: