Edinburgh (AFP) – Aberdeen denied Steven Gerrard a first Cup final as Rangers manager thanks to Lewis Ferguson’s late goal to edge their League Cup semi-final 1-0 at Hampden.
Earlier Sunday, Celtic stormed into a fifth straight domestic Cup final under manager Brendan Rodgers as three second-half goals beat Scottish Premiership leaders Hearts 3-0.
Despite finishing second to Celtic in the league for the past four seasons, Aberdeen hadn’t beaten Rangers in their last five meetings.
However, Rangers paid for missing strikers Alfredo Morelos, who was suspended, and the cup-tied Kyle Lafferty with a toothless performance despite dominating possession.
Aberdeen sit eighth in the league after a disappointing start to the season, but can now look forward for a fourth Cup final in Derek McInnes’s five years in charge on December 2 as Ferguson headed home 12 minutes from time.
Over 60,000 fans crammed into Murrayfield, normally the home of Scottish rugby, after an ill-judged plan to stage both semi-finals on the same day at Hampden was shelved, to see Hearts take on Celtic.
Hearts have been in fine form so far this season, opening up a five-point lead at the top of the league table.
But an early injury to top scorer Steven Naismith robbed the Edinburgh side of their most potent weapon and they were unable to contain the Scottish champions after the break.
Scott Sinclair’s penalty and two goals in six minutes from James Forrest and Ryan Christie put Celtic in command.
“We just said at half-time to show a bit more going forward, open up and move the ball a bit quicker,” said Rodgers.
“Once we did that, we really opened up and showed our qualities and ended up disappointed we maybe haven’t had five or six goals.”
Sinclair was also introduced as an early substitute due to an injury to Eboue Kouassi and the Englishman made no mistake from the spot after Oliver Bozanic tripped Christie inside the box.
“I think the penalty is very, very soft. It changed the feeling of the game,” said Hearts boss Craig Levein.
“I feel disappointed, we had such a massive support today and we never really got to play to our potential.”
Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal left his side with a mountain to climb when he fumbled Christie’s long-range effort 18 minutes from time and Forrest gratefully tapped home the rebound.
Moments later Christie left Zlamal helpless with a sensational left-footed effort that curled into the top corner from outside the box.