Kyogo Furuhashi repeated last year’s feat of scoring a league cup final double, as Celtic secured the trophy for the 21st time with a 2-1 victory over Rangers.
After an unusually insipid opening 40 minutes by the Old Firm’s standards, the showpiece final burst into life just before half time when Kyogo struck from close range to give Ange Postecoglou’s side a lead at the break.
The in-form front man got his and the hoops second of the afternoon mid-way through the second 45. In a move similar to the first, Furuhashi prodded home from inside the 6-yard-box after some excellent movement to beat Borna Barisic to the ball.
Rangers did pull one back through Alfredo Morelos minutes later and a midfield reshuffle from Michael Beale gave the Ibrox side momentum as the game closed out, but they failed break down the stubborn Celtic defence.
Neither side seemed to settle in the opening quarter of an hour, Ryan Kent blazing a shot over from the edge of the area, the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock. Malik Tillman, who beat an injury scare to make the starting XI, was drowned out by Celtic’s midfield on every occasion he seen the ball in the opening stages.
Celtic began to turn the key on the 20-minute mark, after a ball over the top to Kyogo forced Allan McGregor to come off his line and thwart the forward. The veteran keeper then showed his still ample agility to turn away Jota’s effort from distance.
In a game that was defined by who could win their tackles in the middle of the park, Cameron Carter-Vickers came up with a vital touch in his own area to deny a certain Rangers opener. The USA international sliding in to take the ball off the toe of Fashion Sakala Jr, when it looked like the Zambian was set for a tap in.
Quality chances were rationed in the first half with the lively Kyogo and Kent doing well to make themselves space, only for both to fire curling efforts into the stands. Celtic’s top scorer then spurned the best opportunity of the afternoon with four minutes left of the half, heading over from 6 yards out.
The Japanese forward finally made a chance count minutes before the break however, as he gave Celtic the lead.
Greg Taylor delivered in a tempting low ball, which although missed by Daizen Maeda at the front post, was gratefully tapped home by Kyogo to send the east end of Hampden delirious at the break.
Five minutes after the restart Rangers missed a golden opportunity of their own. Kent’s driven shot brushed the post, before Sakala struck the side netting when the cutback looked the more inviting option.
Celtic wasted no time in punishing Rangers slack finishing, as Kyogo conducted a lesson in centre forward play. The number 8 once again drove into the box, beyond Borna Barisic and latched on to the end of Reo Hatate’s cross to bundle past the helpless McGregor.
If any of the 50,00+ spectators inside Hampden thought Celtic would coast to an cup final win, Alfredo Morelos made sure there was still life in this encounter yet. The Colombian prodded the ball home through a crowded penalty area to set up an enthralling last 25 minutes.
The addition of Todd Cantwell and Nicolas Raskin were an injection of adrenaline to the heart of the Rangers side as they fought for an equaliser, but it may raise questions as to why neither were on the park earlier.
It was not to be enough though, as Celtic held on for victory to secure the first silverware of the season and perhaps the first step for Ange Postecoglou towards a momentous treble.