Celtic lifted the first silverware of the season with a 2-0 extra-time victory over bitter rivals Rangers in the League Cup final. Republic of Ireland duo Darren O'Dea and Aiden McGeady were Celtic's goalscorers in the additional 30 minutes at Hampden.
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan will now be aiming to lead his side to a fourth league title to complete the double. He said: "The first goal makes a big difference in these games, but I liked the composure we showed after we scored, which allowed us to create more chances than we had beforehand. There were some really good performances from our team and all the players can be happy with themselves."
Rangers manager Walter Smith also believed there had been little between the sides. "Before the match we knew how tight it was going to be and I felt both sets of defenders and midfielders worked very hard to nullify the other," said Smith.
"There wasn't a great deal of creativity or clear cut openings overall," he added. "As tiredness came into it, I thought it might be a set-piece that would decide the winning goal and unfortunately we lost it."
Strachan had sprung a surprise before kick-off, starting with Scott McDonald in a lone-striking role with his misfiring strike partners Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Georgios Samaras on the bench. Rangers, meanwhile, had been robbed of the services of influential Algerian defender Madjid Bougherra, who was ruled out with a calf strain.
The first real chance of the match did not arrive until the 16th minute. Celtic's Shunsuke Nakamura released McGeady on the left who crossed for McDonald, but the Australian international headed wastefully over. The Parkhead side were now in the driving seat and Scott Brown's rising 25-yard drive worried Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor, despite finally drifting too high.
In the 31st minute McGeady chipped the ball across goal towards the inrushing Brown, but the Scottish international volleyed over from ten yards. Rangers weathered the storm and finally managed to test Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc in the final minute of the half.
Northern Ireland forward Kyle Lafferty spun to unleash a fierce shot from 18 yards, which required the Polish international to dive to his left to palm away. Boruc almost gifted Rangers the opener in the 60th minute when he tried to take the ball around Lafferty, but just managed to scramble it clear. At the other end, a trademark free-kick from Japanese international Nakamura in the 64th minute forced McGregor to dive full-length to his left to push round the post.
With only a minute played of extra-time, Celtic were ahead through the unlikeliest of sources. Nakamura's free-kick from the left was met by Irish defender O'Dea who sent a header up and over McGregor into the net. McDonald then screwed a shot wide when clean through on goal, before Samaras, who had replaced Paul Hartley in the 72nd minute, smashed a first-time shot over from 18 yards.
Rangers were clearly rattled and McGregor had to tip over Brown's 25-yard drive in the 97th minute. Nakamura then sent Samaras through on goal in the 101st minute, but Celtic's Greek striker shot straight at McGregor.
Celtic completed the victory from the penalty spot in the final seconds of extra-time, after Rangers defender Kirk Broadfoot's crude challenge on McGeady, which earned the Rangers man a straight red card. McGeady picked himself up to send McGregor the wrong way and secure the Cup for Celtic.