Rangers set up a mouth-watering Old Firm League Cup final against Celtic as they ground out a narrow 2-1 win over Motherwell at Hampden Park today.
Rangers took the lead against the run of play in the 20th minute through a Maurice Edu strike from distance. Motherwell deservedly grabbed an equaliser in the 66th minute when Keith Lasley drove the ball home from the edge of the box.
But as Motherwell pushed forward looking for a winner they were caught by a fast Rangers counter attack and Nikica Jelavic crossed for the unmarked Steven Naismith to head home with 15 minutes remaining.
Rangers manager Walter Smith was pleased to reach the first cup final of the season. "That's our fourth since coming back to the club so I'm delighted with that," said Smith. "We are happy to win what was always going to be a hard fought match."
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall, a former Rangers player, thought there was nothing between the sides. "It is mixed emotions really. I'm hugely disappointed because I thought the performance merited us at least to go to extra time but I'm really proud of them," he said. "It wasn't a backs-to-the-wall performance and thought we had good possession of the ball but it wasn't to be in the end."
Motherwell made one change as Lasley came in for Steve Jones while Neil Alexander was handed the gloves for Rangers. Alexander, who replaces regular No1 Allan McGregor in cup competitions, was tested early when Jamie Murphy raced down the inside left channel but his shot was easily held by the goalkeeper.
Rangers took a while to get a foothold in the game and their first chance came after some fancy footwork from Edu set up Lee McCulloch at the edge of the box but he sent his drive well wide. Chris Humphrey picked out John Sutton with a cut-back from the by-line but the Englishman sent a soft header straight to Alexander as Motherwell had the first shot on target.
Rangers took the lead in the 20th minute when Edu created a goal out of nothing. The American midfielder got the ball on to his left foot before cracking an angled drive past Darren Randolph. Motherwell were appealing for a penalty in the 54th minute when David Weir clambered over Sutton to win a header in the box but referee Willie Collum waved away their protests.
Motherwell deservedly grabbed an equaliser in the 66th minute when Keith Lasley drove the ball home from the edge of the box. Rangers were being pinned in their own half at times but restored their lead in the 75th minute through a breakaway goal.
Jelavic controlled a long ball from Davies and after some fancy footwork on the left he beat Shaun Hutchinson and sent over a cross to the far post where the unmarked Naismith headed past the helpless Randolph. Motherwell pressed forward to try and nab a late equaliser and only the feet of Alexander saved Rangers as he blocked a Steven Saunders header on the line.