A 38-minute hat-trick from Martin Boyle booked Hibernian’s place in the Premier Sports Cup final against Celtic as they beat Rangers 3-1 at Hampden Park.
Jack Ross’ side turned in an excellent underdog performance. They made sure they were first to every ball and defended resolutely, and the teamwork they showed to hunt the ball down in packs made it a really difficult evening for Rangers. The Gers’ new boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst was in attendance in the stands and he will realise that there is still work to do with the reigning Scottish Premiership champions.
Rangers’ players looked incredibly suspect at the back as Hibs pounced to take a three-goal first-half lead in a commanding display from Ross’ side. Rangers did look threatening when they burst forward but they lacked that cutting edge when they did get in and around the box, their consolation goal coming from a rare Hibs mistake.
Van Bronckhorst will be eager to get on the training pitch with his players to bounce back from this setback and it will be his aim to quickly implement his vision on the field and get Rangers back on track in the hunt for a second consecutive league title. There is no denying his predecessor Steven Gerrard left the club in a strong position, but Sunday’s performance showed that Van Bronckhorst has to tighten up his defence and make his attackers more ruthless in front of goal.
The opening goal came inside the first 10 minutes and it was off script as Hibs took the lead through Martin Boyle following a corner. Rangers looked for an immediate answer, and striker Alfredo Morelos had a great chance to pull his side level after being picked out brilliantly by Joe Aribo, but his shot was gathered by Matt Macey.
It was an entertaining start at Hampden, with both sides looking dangerous when breaking forward. The travelling Hibs fans were then sent into pandemonium as Boyle scored theirs and his second of the game. Macey had to thwart a powerful drive from Scott Arfield from range as the Gers struggled to break down Hibs’ compact defence, and an excellent half by Ross’ side was capped off as Boyle wrapped up a first-half hat-trick from the penalty spot after the striker was fouled by Steven Davis. Rangers were able to pull one back almost immediately as Arfield capitalised on a mistake by Ryan Porteous, the goal sparking the Rangers fans into life.
Ross’ side were so organised that Rangers didn’t have much to offer. The Glasgow side may have had more efforts, but Hibs taught them a lesson in how to be clinical when you do get a chance. The Gers piled on the pressure in the second half but Hibs put their bodies on the line to hold onto the lead. Rangers defender Connor Goldson had a golden opportunity to pull one back late on but his effort sailed over the bar, and it summed up his side’s evening at Hampden.
There will undoubtedly be a party in the Leith area of Edinburgh, but Ross will want to quickly look ahead to the final against Celtic on 19 December as they bid to win their first Scottish League Cup since 2006-07 in their first final in six years.