Irish pair secure Cup for Celtic

Celtic 2 Rangers 0 (after extra time)

Celtic 2 Rangers 0 (after extra time)

Extra-time goals by republic of Ireland players Darren O'Dea and Aiden McGeady gave Celtic a deserved Co-operative Insurance Cup final victory over rivals Rangers at Hampden today.

After 90 tense but mediocre minutes had failed to produce a goal, the game moved in to extra-time and just a minute after the restart O'Dea, who had not scored since Celtic beat Livingston in February 2007, leapt to head a Shunsuke Nakamura free-kick past Allan McGregor.

In the third minute of added time at the end, Rangers defender Kirk Broadfoot was red-carded by referee Dougie McDonald for denying McGeady a clear goalscoring opportunity and the Republic of Ireland international scored from the spot.

There was little between the sides in normal time but the Parkhead mens' superior fitness paid off and they must take a psychological boost in their bid for their fourth Clydesdale Bank Premier League title in succession, a race in which Celtic lead Rangers by three points.

The extra time eventually brought some drama to an indifferent match but there was plenty to talk about before a ball was kicked.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan surprisingly dropped both his off-form strikers Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Georgios Samaras, leaving McGeady to partner Scott McDonald.

Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra failed to recover from a calf injury, leaving Broadfoot to partner David Weir at the heart of the defence with Lee McCulloch protecting just in front.

Kris Boyd, who had patched up his very public rift with manager Walter Smith which had seen him sent home form training, started on the bench.

Stripped bare of the tribalism which poured down from the packed stands, the first half was little more than mediocre.

The tactical and personnel changes seemed to unsettle both sides and the newly-laid Hampden pitch, which began cutting up from the first whistle, did little to help the flow.

In the 25th minute, with the game slowly suffocating, Hoops' bustling midfielder Scott Brown came close when he sent a shot from 25 yards whistling over the bar.

Four minutes later Celtic stopper Glenn Loovens rose highest in a packed six-yard box to meet a deep Nakamura free-kick but directed his header just wide of the far post, seconds before the on-rushing Brown knocked a McGeady cross over the bar.

There was more heat than light generated but two minutes from the break, Celtic keeper Artur Boruc was called into action for the first time and he pulled off a terrific save from Kyle Lafferty's volley, after the Irishman had easily held off Hoops defender Andreas Hinkel.

Kenny Miller and Lafferty swapped positions for the second half and initially it made a difference.

In the 50th minute Miller set Steven Davis up at the edge of the box but the Ulsterman was inches wide with his right-footed drive.

Seconds later Boruc almost cost Celtic a goal when, after taking a McManus pass-back, he tried to take on Lafferty.

The Ibrox striker read his intentions and the Poland keeper had to stretch to toe the ball out for a throw-in.

Then, at the other end, McGregor made a fine save from a Nakamura free-kick before O'Dea headed over the Japan international's subsequent corner.

The Hoops came even closer in the 71st minute when, following a Paul Hartley corner from the left, Loovens stabbed the ball in at the far post only to see Pedro Mendes clear off the line.

Boyd came on for Lafferty in the 76th minute but as the game refused to improve in terms of quality, Mendes fired over from distance.

Extra time came as no surprise but it took little more than a minute for the breakthrough to come through the unlikely figure of O'Dea.

After Whittaker was adjudged to have fouled McDonald just outside the Rangers box Nakamura's curled free-kick was met by the Irishman who headed high past the helpless McGregor.

Rangers were clearly rattled and McDonald and Samaras both missed good chances to finish the game before Brown drove over again from the edge of the box.

As the Ibrox side wilted further McGregor made a decent save from Samaras and then Rangers skipper Barry Ferguson was involved in a needless touchline spat with Celtic coach Neil Lennon.

The second half of injury time saw a limited response from the Govan side and in the third minute of added time, after Broadfoot conceded the penalty with a trip on McGeady to earn a red card, the Celtic midfielder sent McGregor the wrong way with a perfect spot kick.

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