Fall guy Jelavic bounces back to make Celtic pay

RANGERS manager Walter Smith hailed his players for showing the determination to overcome a controversial refereeing decision and edge an enthralling Old Firm final at Hampden yesterday.

Rangers secured the Co-operative Insurance Cup after winning an entertaining contest 2-1 thanks to an extra-time winner from Nikica Jelavic.

The match sparked from the start and Steven Davis put Rangers ahead in the 23rd minute before Joe Ledley headed an equaliser on the half-hour mark.

But one of the major talking points was Craig Thomson’s decision to book Jelavic for diving seconds after pointing to the penalty spot when the Croatian went down under a challenge from Thomas Rogne.

TV pictures showed Rogne’s foot had just brushed the knee of Jelavic, who then went down emphatically after a slight delay.

Thomson rejected other penalty claims in both boxes, the first when Celtic full-back Mark Wilson fell under the close attention of Sasa Papac, before a second-half incident when the ball hit Wilson’s arm.

Smith appeared to refer to the furore that followed the now retired Dougie McDonald’s decision to reverse a penalty award to Celtic against Dundee United when he questioned Thomson’s actions.

But he was more concerned with praising his players for coming out after losing three and drawing one of the four previous Old Firm games in 2011.

Smith said: “I think it was strange to find themselves in a position where they were more or less written off. It was a nice challenge for them and they rose to it very well.

“None of the boys who have been here for a number of years need to prove anything to anybody. They have given everything and played exceptionally well.”

Smith insisted the Jelavic penalty incident still mattered despite the result.

“It’s dangerous for a referee to do that, very dangerous,” the Rangers manager said. “If it had been in the other penalty box, I don’t know.

“I just felt a wee bit aggrieved that Jelavic got booked because he gave a penalty and then he booked Jelavic.

“He must have thought himself there was something in the decision to give it in the first place.

“Regardless of a refereeing decision in today’s game, we have come out of it as good enough to win the game.”

Although Celtic’s Emilio Izaguirre was sent off in the dying seconds for a last-man foul on Weiss, and both teams had three players booked, fears of a repeat of this month’s volatile Scottish Cup clash never looked like materialising.

“I hope both teams get a bit of praise for the way they played,” said Smith. “There was plenty of criticism after the last game so when it goes the other way I hope we get a bit of praise.”

The defeat ended hopes of a Celtic treble and afterwards Kris Commons said: “We have let down ourselves, the fans, the coaching staff and especially Neil (Lennon).

“There was six or seven lads who didn’t turn up. There were some okay performances, a few of us didn’t play to our abilities and we switched off certainly for the second goal.

“In the build-up we felt confident and sharp but today there was no evidence of that.”

CELTIC: Forster, Wilson, Rogne (Loovens 73), Mulgrew, Izaguirre, Brown (Ki 65), Kayal, Ledley, Commons (McCourt 103), Hooper, Samaras.

RANGERS: Alexander, Whittaker, Bougherra (Hutton 82), Weir, Papac, Wylde, Davis, Naismith, Edu, Lafferty (Weiss 90), Jelavic (Diouf 117).

Referee: Craig Thomson.

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