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Philippe Clement has one Rangers route to avoid the same black cloud that followed Michael Beale – Keith Jackson



After the extreme excitement of the first one, Hampden probably needed something a bit more moderate, maybe even mundane.


And that’s what the old place got yesterday as Rangers eliminated Hearts with the minimum of fuss,


in a game which was as good as over from the moment Cyriel Dessers rolled his side into an early lead.


So when Dessers doubled up with another one near the end it removed all remaining doubt.


In between times Hearts offered some huffing and puffing but never anything that meant the Ibrox men were significantly troubled. No dramatic plot twists.


No game-changing VAR decisions. No goalkeepers mentally malfunctioning during penalties.


There wasn’t even a great deal of football to focus on in between all the long-ball hoofing and tigerish tackling, just a rolling brawl with the ball in the middle.


In the hustle and bustle of it all, Todd Cantwell and Mohamed Diomande produced occasional nuggets of gold and sprinkled them around a congested midfield.


Their quality was ultimately the difference between the two sides. And yet, for Rangers and Philippe Clement,


this win, as straightforward as it was to achieve, might in retrospect be looked upon as a key moment in a tumultuous season.


Because it means the Belgian will have the chance to bring down the curtain on his first campaign with another shot at Celtic and perhaps an


opportunity to buy himself some breathing space for the summer, should it transpire the damage has already been done to his hopes of landing the league title.


Don’t worry. If madness is your thing there will be plenty more to come back here on May 25 when the Old Firm collide again for the last silverware of the season.


.And if Clement goes into that one having lost out on the league title at least


he’ll have the opportunity to land a glove on the chin of his club’s city rivals and complete a cup double.


Who knows? If he can find a way to win behind enemy lines in the final league skirmish he may yet win the lot this season, which would represent a truly remarkable return.


Or he could end up on the end of a couple of beatings then head off on holiday in the kind of situation which Michael Beale dragged on to the beach this time last year. Like a big black cloud.


But however it all turns out, Glasgow’s big two have some scores to settle and given the trouble Celtic had in seeing off Aberdeen,


it’s far from certain they’ll deliver their side of the bargain without doing something stupid along the way.


Saturday’s semi was a mystifying affair but amid the head scratching and jaw slackening, Celtic emerged with their place in the end of season showpiece secured.


That’s precisely what Brendan Rodgers had been hoping to secure so in that respect it was a case of mission accomplished.


Yet the standard of his side’s performance also leaves a huge question mark hanging over the run-in.


Quite simply, Celtic look too flaky to be trusted even though they have their own destiny – and the prospect of a league and cup double – in their own hands.


They had been quietly getting on with what had been by some distance their most enjoyable week of the season so far,


watching Rangers hit the road from Dingwall to Dundee with catastrophic consequences.


But then someone went and spoiled it all by asking them to play some football of their own.


And that served as a reminder of why they are in this sticky position in the first place, still unsure if they have it in them to retain their title.


They may have got there in the end but Celtic were a million miles off the pace at the National Stadium – and not for the first time.


In fact, they have made a habit of performing only in fits and starts and this alarming lack of consistency, not knowing what to


expect from them from one minute to the next, is what will keep this title fight interesting until it’s settled one way or the other.


Their defensive frailties were exposed time after time by an Aberdeen side which, to almost everyone’s surprise,


was on the front foot from the very first kick. In fact, this was the kind of rousing,


spirited display that might make error-prone chairman Dave Cormack wonder if he’s done the right thing by failing to persuade


Peter Leven to take the manager’s job on a more permanent basis rather than bringing in Jimmy Thelin from Elfsborg




But that’s for another day. Right now Cormack must still be wondering how it could be that ref Don Robertson retrospectively awarded


Celtic a free-kick and only after Cameron Carter-Vickers had nearly taken one of Junior Hoilett’s legs off from the knee down.


And, as if that made no sense at all, then how could it be that Aberdeen’s keeper began to cramp up during the penalty


shoot-out which followed? It wasn’t as if Kelle Roos had been out there running himself into the ground along with the rest of his team-mates?


But down he went in any case, as if he’d been shot in the back of a calf – leaving Ryan Duncan clutching the ball for an eternity as the colour rushed from his face.


The poor lad was in such a mental fog he could hardly find his way back into the penalty box,


never mind actually stand a chance of converting from the spot.



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He hit the post before Joe Hart then stopped Killian Phillips to send Celtic through.


But then again that was the least the veteran could do having put himself before five outfield players to


take – and miss – the penalty that should have seen them through in the first place.



Now Glasgow’s feuding neighbours have two more of these head-to-heads still to settle in order to decide which of them rules the roost. It’s time for the faint of heart to step aside.


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