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Giovanni van Bronckhorst praises the ‘phenomenal’ character of Rangers players
The Lights Blues hit back from a goal down to defeat bitter rivals Celtic 2-1 in their Scottish Cup semi-final.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst praised his Rangers side’s “phenomenal” character to come back from a goal down to beat Celtic 2-1 at Hampden Park and reach the Scottish Cup final.
The Parkhead side took the lead against the general run of play in the 64th minute through left-back Greg Taylor but Gers substitute Scott Arfield levelled in the 78th minute to take the game to extra time for the second time in four days for the Light Blues, after they had beaten Braga in 120 minutes in the Europa League quarter-final at Ibrox on Thursday.
In the 114th minute, as the game looked set for penalties, Celtic defender Carl Starfelt and Gers substitute Fashion Sakala jousted for a Calvin Bassey cross with the ball ending up in the net – it looked like an own goal- and Rangers will now play Hearts in the final on May 21.
“It was a very proud moment for me to see my side play like that,” said the Gers boss, who revealed Aaron Ramsey had to go off just before the break with a hamstring injury.
“We had to dig deep after a demanding game against Braga. But I think today our character was phenomenal, especially because we knew that Celtic were coming at us fresh. The guys did terrific.
“In the first half we created good chances to score. But when we got the goal against us we knew we had to dig even deeper. The substitutions made quite a positive impact for the team – fresh legs.
“We controlled the game after that. You know when you are playing a semi-final and it goes to extra time players get tired and make more mistakes.
“We know that when we scored in the second half of extra time it was a vital moment. Luckily for us we scored the winner with Sakala.”
Van Bronckhorst believes the win gives Rangers incentive to go on and win the cup for the first time since 2009 while they continue their pursuit of Celtic at the top of the league with the Hoops holding a six-point advantage with five games remaining.
The Dutchman said: “Of course it has been a terrific week for us winning against Braga and winning today and reaching the cup final.
“The momentum this week has been perfect. We have a lot of games to play in the next few weeks so it gives us a lot of confidence.
“But in every game you have to start all over again. We are going to use this week to refresh, recover and rest and make sure everyone is ready for the last weeks of the season.”
Arfield had missed two chances against Braga after coming off the bench – one a sitter when he hit the bar from six yards – and Van Bronckhorst recognised the midfielder’s redemption.
He said: “Scott is always trying to score. He missed a very good chance on Thursday, but he is always a player who can come in those spaces and try to score.
“Today he did it perfectly. I am very happy for him, but I am happy for all of us that we scored the equaliser.”
On Ramsey’s injury, van Bronckhorst said: “He had a problem with his hamstring. It didn’t look really good. We will have to assess him, but of course it is a blow for us that he will be out.
“I don’t know for how long. We just have to assess him tomorrow and see where he is.”
Ange Postecoglou is looking for Celtic to use the disappointment of defeat to fuel their title bid.
The Hoops boss said: “We have had to be resilient all year and this is another challenge for us.
“We are disappointed we didn’t get to another final, we are disappointed for our fans.
“But irrespective of what happened today we have five games to concentrate on winning the league, starting next week.
“We need to make sure that we use this disappointment to fuel our endeavours in this next series of games.”