Rangers will need more than just coaches and tactics boards to analyse what happened to them at Hampden on Sunday. They will need couches and psychologists to help them process their broken spirit and their lost Scottish Cup. This was the fourth time they had faced Celtic in the Michael Beale months, and yet again they had no joy. Despite a decidedly average Celtic second-half performance, Rangers were unable to capitalize on their chances, with Borna Barisic, Nicolas Raskin, Ryan Kent, and James Tavernier all failing to react to Daizen Maeda’s speed of thought and Jota’s cleverness of movement. Fashion Sakala’s missed sitter and Tavernier’s shot that hit the post only added to the ‘what if?’ questions that Rangers have been asking themselves all season. From the 4-0 at Parkhead to the League Cup final, the 3-2 in the league, and now this semi-final, it has been an endless cycle of defensive lapses and mind-numbing mistakes that have been exploited by an alert Celtic attack.
Beale has said that Rangers need dramatic surgery, and his board should listen to him. With multiple players on lavish wages out of contract in the summer, they must make astute moves in order to rebuild their team. In comparison, Ange Postecoglou’s signings have contributed heavily in the 10 Old Firm games, with Kyogo scoring five goals, Jota four, Liel Abada three, and Reo Hatate two. Carl Starfelt has scored as many goals against Celtic as Morelos or Kent have since Postecoglou arrived, and Filip Helander has the same number of Old Firm goals in the last two seasons as any Rangers midfielder or striker.
Beale threw on attacker after attacker as the second half wore on, but none of them were good enough. Alfredo Morelos was another non-performance, and Ryan Kent has been making the Rangers starting team on reputation alone, having scored 28 domestic goals in more than 160 games for Rangers. Jota now has 23 in less than two seasons at Celtic. Beale said his players gave him everything, but their everything continues to fall short in defeating Postecoglou’s team. The treble is very much on for Celtic, while Rangers are left in the doldrums.