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Rangers 1-0 Aberdeen: Captain James Tavernier scores acrobatic winner as Philippe Clement's men claim first Scottish League Cup in over 12 years

Swinging clenched fists like boxer celebrating a knockout, James Tavernier roared towards the delighted Rangers fans before being wrapped in an embrace from Kemar Roofe.

The final whistle had sounded. At last, the League Cup was about to come into his hands – and he was the man who had made it happen. Hampden can have witnessed few more cathartic goals than the one which shattered Aberdeen.

Rangers’ captain and longest-serving player suffered heartbreak in the 2019 and 2022 finals against Celtic. He would not be denied again. For Tavernier, third time was indeed a charm.

Firing beyond Kelle Roos after 76 minutes of tension at the national stadium, the 32-year-old ensured there would later be scenes of delirium as Philippe Clement and his players rejoiced in front of their supporters. For the first time since 2011, this prize will be resident at Ibrox once more.

Six supposedly permanent managers – plus a scattering of interim appointments – have come and gone over the 12 years since Rangers last triumphed under the late, great Walter Smith. Clement has ended the wait after just two months in charge.

Rangers captain James Tavernier lifts the trophy after winning the Viaplay Cup final

 Rangers captain James Tavernier lifts the trophy after winning the Viaplay Cup final

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The Belgian has no intention of stopping here, though. Steven Gerrard and Giovanni van Bronckhorst were, for different reasons, both unable to add to the solitary trophies that graced their respective tenures. Clement’s aim is to be a serial winner.

MATCH FACTS

Rangers: Butland, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic, Lundstram, Sterling, McCausland (Scott Wright 74), Cantwell (Lammers 82), Sima, Dessers (Roofe 82).

Subs Not Used: Yilmaz, Souttar, Matondo, Dowell, McCrorie, King.

Booked: Lundstram, Balogun, Barisic, Scott Wright.

Goal: Tavernier 76.

Aberdeen: Roos, Gartenmann, Rubezic, Jensen (Morris 80), Devlin, Clarkson, Shinnie, Hayes (McGarry 66), McGrath (Polvara 70), Miovski, Sokler (Lopes 65).

Subs Not Used: Barron,Duncan,MacDonald,Milne,Doohan.

Booked: Sokler, McGrath, Clarkson, Shinnie, Rubezic, Miovski.

Att: 49,296

Ref: Don Robertson (Scotland).

His assertion about not being Harry Potter has often been repeated, but perhaps he is more of an alchemist. The base metal left behind by Michael Beale has rapidly been turned into silver. As such, Rangers now have real momentum on the back of Clement’s 14th unbeaten game.

It must be carried into Wednesday night’s more mundane assignment against St Johnstone. With Celtic currently experiencing a wobble, Clement could have Rangers on top of the Premiership at the winter break if he maintains the winning streak. That truly would be a feat of magic given the position inherited.

For counterpart Barry Robson, there was to be no extension of this season’s earlier joy against Rangers. The Dons arrived in Mount Florida buoyed by their Europa Conference League win over Eintracht Frankfurt and with star striker Bojan Miovski fit – but departed without a meaningful shot on target. Their undoubted effort was not accompanied by enough threat.

Robson must now quickly switch focus to hauling his team upwards from tenth place in the Premiership. There is little time for moping ahead of Livingston’s visit midweek visit.

In truth, the seventh League Cup final between these clubs was anything but a classic. For the most part, it was scrappy and fractious. Rangers, though, deserved the glory for the second half dominance summoned on the back of heroics in Spain last Thursday evening.

While clouds clung to Glasgow throughout a miserable afternoon of wind and rain, it was smoke that swirled around the pitch at kick-off.

Messages on the big screens had earlier offered reminders of pyrotechnics being strictly prohibited. They were ignored. A sizeable display was produced by Rangers fans gathered behind Jack Butland’s goal, with a number of flares and smoke bombs also let off in the Aberdeen end.

When John Lundstram slid through Jamie McGrath early doors, it seemed we might get some on-field fireworks. Instead, the opening period barely smouldered. If the level of anxiety remained high, the quality did not.

Rangers picked up their first trophy of the Philippe Clement era at Hampden Park on Sunday

Rangers picked up their first trophy of the Philippe Clement era at Hampden Park on Sunday

It was attritional fare. In admittedly difficult conditions, neither team was able to create a sense of continuity or build any rhythm. You could almost hear Derek Adams muttering ‘I told you so’ after Saturday’s post-match rant.

Rangers had the better of both possession and chances, but not enough to bring a breakthrough.

Having gone all Fernando Torres with a wonderful goal in Seville on Thursday night, Cyriel Dessers returned to more familiar domestic form as he initially struggled to make an impact as the attacking spearhead.

The Nigerian couldn’t turn home after a Tavernier corner prompted a bit of penalty box pinball. Thereafter, sights of goal were at a premium until the break.

Aberdeen’s first came on 27 minutes. A deep, swirling cross from Leighton Clarkson was knocked down by Ester Sokler – picked to partner Miovski – for Graeme Shinnie. The Dons skipper was thwarted by a smart Connor Goldson block.

Not for the first time in recent weeks, Abdallah Sima looked Rangers’ most likely outlet. He worried Stefan Gartenmann driving infield off the left and, after half an hour, recorded a shot on target.

James Tavernier was the Rangers hero as they edged out Aberdeen in the Viaplay Cup final

James Tavernier was the Rangers hero as they edged out Aberdeen in the Viaplay Cup final

Having just halted an Aberdeen break with fine challenge on his return following a personal issue, Todd Cantwell fed Sima in the centre of the area. A little spin created space but his low low right-foot strike was held by Kelle Roos.

Referee Don Robertson had been lenient with a number of challenges, including when Shinnie’s elbow caught Cantwell on the back of the head.

But a 39th minute flashpoint stirred him into action. Robertson had already blown for Sima leading with his arm in an aerial duel with Nicky Devlin – leaving the Dons wing-back on the deck – before Ross McCausland fired the ball into the net. A little confrontation afterwards saw both Lundstram and Sokler booked.

Gartenmann then headed wide from a Clarkson free-kick but the best opportunity arrived for McCausland in the third minute of added time. Cantwell’s sweet skill on the left was followed by a precise cross the young winger headed too high.

The tempo certainly improved after the break. Both sides, though, initially suffered from a lack of conviction.

First, Borna Barisic should have fired at goal rather than attempt a difficult cutback to Dessers. Next, Sokler somehow failed to react to a tantalising delivery from Devlin.

Rangers then steadily began to turn to the screw. McCausland drew a fine, low save from Roos on the slide before Leon Balogun headed wide from the resultant corner.

Dessers thought he could reprise his Real Betis magic when he foxed Gartenmann with a chop after outmuscling Slobodan Rubezic. This time, though, his shot was repelled by Roos.

Tavernier and Barisic both tested the goalkeeper with free-kicks before Balogun blazed over the bar from a clever Cantwell cutback.

Tavernier rifled in a back-post winner for Rangers in the 76th minute on Sunday

Tavernier rifled in a back-post winner for Rangers in the 76th minute on Sunday

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

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But a goal was coming. When it finally arrived, Barisic was creator – skipping past substitute Dante Polvara to hit the touchline and hang up a cross. It went over Dessers but dropped for Tavernier to control on his right foot.

This was the moment. Adjusting his body to strike as he fell, the right-back hit with power into the ground. The ball spun up off the turf and beyond the despairing grasp of Roos.

Six minutes of added time signalled a frenzied Aberdeen push for salvation. Butland punched clear from a corner ahead of Roos – sent forward as the cavalry – before the Ibrox keeper clung on in a goalmouth scramble.

A mass melee followed that one, with Balogun, Ryan Duncan and Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes all booked. Then came the end. And the start of Rangers’ celebrations – with Tavernier to the fore.

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