Aggregate: Rangers 2-1 Hibernian. Rangers to face Motherwell in two legged final.
Hibernian produced a strong display to edge Rangers 1-0 in sunny Edinburgh, but failed to progress to the SPFL Premiership Play-Off Final, losing 2-1 on aggregate. The only goal of the game came in the dying seconds, as Championship top scorer Jason Cummings looped a wonderful shot into the top corner to provide Hibs with the reward their play deserved.
Hibs lined up with almost the same team that played Rangers in the first leg, with only Scott Robertson dropping to the bench to be replaced by Celtic’s Dylan McGeouch. Rangers also made one change, bringing in Lee MCCulloch to replace striker Clarke.
The home side started brightly, pushing forward in large numbers and trying to pin Rangers deep in their own half. Minutes into the game, Hibs had a penalty claim dismissed by the referee, as the ball appeared to hit the arm of former Hibs man Dean Shiels in the box.
After Hibs’ opening strength went unrewarded, Rangers began to come more into the game, with Kenny Miller missing a great chance, his header flying wide of Oxley’s post. Later, Rangers’ key man, Vuckic, took on a great long shot, stinging Mark Oxley’s right hand, as the Hibs keeper tipped it wide.
After the break, Hibs pushed even harder for the goals they needed, throwing everything at the Rangers defence. Liam Craig was replaced early on by Farid El Alagui after which defender Lewis Stevenson was replaced by forward Frank DjeDje.
However, much as the Edinburgh side huffed and puffed, Rangers repelled them. Despite much pre-match talk about the frailties of the Rangers’ back line, they stood strong, frustrating their opponents, even if they created little for themselves by way of chances.
Hibernian’s breakthrough did finally come in the 94th minute and few would argue that they deserved it. Following play inside the packed Rangers box – a common occurrence in the second half – Hibs’ top scorer Jason Cummings arced a wonderful shot to Cammy Bells’ right hand side and into the net.
However, the goal proved to be no more than a consolation for the Edinburgh club who now face another season in the Championship, while Rangers can still contemplate returning to the top flight of Scottish football.
Image: Seats at Easter Road (c) Tom Brogan (tombrogan, flickr).