Celtic B were crowned the City of Glasgow Cup champions at Ibrox Stadium following a 4-3 win in a penalty shootout over their arch-rivals Rangers B after the sides drew 3-3 in normal time.
Although the mouthwatering clash was hosted at the home of Rangers’ senior side, there certainly was no home advantage felt within the stands of the venue, with young fans from both Celtic and Rangers making their voices heard in support of their potential future heroes, turning the Gers’ home into a neutral venue.
Rangers B came into the final with their sights set on successive City of Glasgow Cup triumphs, however, they knew it would be no easy task against a Celtic B side who had got the better of them in each of their meetings in all competitions already this season.
It was the Bhoys who had the biggest chance of scoring in the opening stages of the game when Adam Brooks found space and whipped a ball into the area from the left wing towards Rocco Vata, who was unable to make contact as he threw himself at the cross.
Rangers replied with a period of pressure in Celtic’s defensive third. Midfielder Alex Lowry, who has been in and around the first team at Rangers, had one chipped effort sail over the bar, then another attempt on goal saved a moment later, before finally striking the ball into the net, but the referee had already blown for a Celtic free kick for handball.
Celtic would be the side to make the breakthrough in the 24th minute of the game, however. A ball over the top looked to be getting shielded out of play from Rangers’ centre-back Lewis MacKinnon, but he could not have expected the determination of the Celtic captain Matthew Anderson. He got around MacKinnon to keep the ball in play, before passing to Brooks in the middle of the penalty area who showcased his instinctive finishing ability as he fired his strike into the right of Lewis Budinauckas’ net.
Celtic would double their lead less than ten minutes later when Rocco Vata made a strong run down the right flank to get away from his man. He picked out the first goal scorer Brooks, who emphatically struck the ball into the top right corner with a classy first-time finish.
Celtic would find themselves in dreamland five minutes after their second when Brooks would become the provider for Vata. He played a ball through for the Irish youth international who found enough space for himself to have a shot, as his deflected effort looped past the Rangers keeper and gave Celtic a 3-0 lead.
The lead would be back down to two goals just a couple of minutes after Vata’s effort. Mitchell Robertson’s pass was intercepted by Rangers forward Robbie Ure who was then tackled in the box by the retreating Robertson. Ure protested for Robertson to receive his marching orders, but referee Iain Sneddon deemed the challenge worthy of a yellow card.
Lowry stepped up for the spot kick and converted what would be the first of 15 penalties on show at Ibrox to give the Govan side a way back into the final going into the half-time interval with the scores at 3-1.
Rangers ramped up the pressure from the get-go in the second half when Zak Lovelace stole the ball from Bosun Lawal in his own area as he was trying to drive out from the back after receiving the ball from a goal kick. Lovelace was alert to win the ball cleanly and finished with aplomb to get the young Gers back in with a shout of lifting the Glasgow Cup.
Rangers continued with the pressure for the majority of the second half, with Celtic struggling to get out of their own half at times unless they were on the counter at times when Rangers had flung men forward.
In the 88th minute, the sustained pressure was rewarded, when Rangers had a magic moment of their own through playmaker Zak Lovelace, who performed a trademark ‘Zidane Turn’ to create space at the edge of the penalty area. However, the striker was denied a spectacular cup final goal when his curled strike rattled the post.
The rebound was not cleared however, and the fresh energy of late Rangers substitute Tony Weston proved decisive, as he beat the Celtic defence to the free ball and fired a shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the Celtic goal to complete the Rangers’ dramatic comeback to take the game to a penalty shootout in the most sensational style that only a tense derby cup final can provide.
Bailey Rice stepped up first for Rangers in the shootout and sent Josh Clarke the wrong way to put the pressure on Celtic’s first penalty taker Ben Summers. Summers stepped up, and fired his shot into the Broomloan End, meaning it was advantage Rangers.
The advantage would be levelled within the next round of spot kicks when Clarke saved Ross McCausland’s penalty and Bosun Lawal restored the scores on penalties.
Celtic would take the lead for the first time in the shootout in the third round of kicks when Clarke would make his second penalty save in a row to deny James Graham, whereas MacKenzie Carse topped a strong performance off with a strong penalty into the top left corner.
The man who brought the game to penalties, Tony Weston, would score Rangers’ third of the shootout, which would prove pivotal as his counterpart Bruno Davidson saw his penalty saved onto the right post by Budinauckas to even the score on penalties once more.
With the score level going into the fifth penalty, it was sudden death with no room for error. Lovelace stepped up and put all the pressure on Celtic’s final designated penalty taker with a fantastic shot from 12 yards. The hoops midfield general Tsoanelo Letsosa had the responsibility of keeping Celtic in the tournament and responded exceptionally with the pick of the penalties as his kick nearly burst the top left section of the net.
Ranger’s skipper Robbie Fraser stepped up to put the pressure back on Celtic, but Josh Clarke won the battle of wits and remained in the middle of his goal to save and give his teammate Dylan Corr the chance to win the cup. However, Corr smashed the bar as the drama intensified in Glasgow’s Southside.
Kelsey Ewen was next up for the Teddy Bears, but for the second time in the shootout, Clarke saved consecutive penalties and was looking impossible to beat from the spot. Corey Thomson was next for the Hoops, and he sent Budinauckas the wrong way to win the City of Glasgow Cup for his side.
The magic moment for Celtic is Josh Clarke’s heroics during the shootout, saving an outstanding 4 out of 7 penalty kicks that came his way. In a world that sees goalkeepers under immense pressure not to make mistakes, it’s only fitting that Clarke receives the plaudits for his role in Celtic’s success in the final.
Celtic B will feel avenged now that they have got the better of their bitter rivals in this competition after finishing behind them in the Lowland League despite winning every time they have met this campaign. Their play at times, especially as they raced into a 3-goal lead very early into the game, was incredible and Celtic fans will have been watching eagerly to catch glimpses of who may feature for one of the match’s spectators Ange Postecoglou in Celtic’s remaining league fixtures as they have wrapped up the SPFL Premiership title.
The Rangers side however will feel this was an opportunity to redeem themselves from those defeats and will use this anguish to spur them on to future success either as part of this squad or when some inevitably establish themselves into Rangers’ first team. With nothing left to play for at senior level, many of tonight’s key performers may have earned a ticket to first-team experience in the last remaining games of this season as Michael Beale prepares for a massive rebuild for next season.
Rangers Player of the Match: Alex Lowry
Lowry was a constant nuisance for the Celtic side this evening and was always at the heart of any Rangers opportunities, as seen at 3-0 down when he converted to start the comeback, and Josh Clarke showed how difficult it is to score against him from 12 yards! Lowry was also never wasteful in possession and showed his quality up until he was subbed off.
Celtic Player of the Match: Josh Clark
Before the shootout, this award would have gone to either of the goal scorers. However, it is impossible to take away the impact Josh Clarke’s performance at penalties had on the result, and as a result he is Celtic’s player of the match. Even as the game was closing out and Rangers kept knocking on his door he denied them a winner and even an equaliser at times between the second and third goal. To face eight penalties and save half of them is incredible, made all the more impressive when you consider the stakes riding on a game of this magnitude. Therefore, Josh Clarke claims Celtic’s Player of the Match award.
1. Lewis Budinauckas
2. Jack Harkness
3. Robbie Fraser
4. Connor Allan
5. Lewis MacKinnon
6. Bailey Rice
7. Zakariya Lovelace
8. Alex Lowry
9. Robbie Ure
10. Arron Lyall
11. Ross McCausland
21. Jacob Pazikas
12. Kelsey Ewen
14. Kevin Ciubotaru
15. MacKenzie Strachan
16. Charlie Lindsay
17. James Graham
18. Tony Weston
1. Josh Clarke
2. Ben McPherson
3. Matthew Anderson
4. Bosun Lawal
5. Mitchell Robertson
6. MacKenzie Carse
7. Rocco Vata
8. Tsoanelo Letsosa
9. Adam Brooks
10. Ben Summers
11. Magnus MacKenzie
12. Dylan Corr
13. Joe Morrison
14. Kyle Ure
15. Corey Thomson
16. Daniel Kelly
17. Bruno Davidson
18. Ben Quinn
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