Rangers 0-1 Celtic: Jota books Scottish Cup final spot as latest Old Firm win keeps treble hopes on track

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Match-winner: Jota’s first-half header was enough for Celtic to see off Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final  (PA)
Match-winner: Jota’s first-half header was enough for Celtic to see off Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final (PA)

Celtic took a giant step towards a domestic treble and effectively ended rivals Rangers’ season with victory in a pulsating Scottish Cup semi-final tie at Hampden Park.

Returning Portuguese forward Jota netted the only goal of a typically fast and furious Old Firm derby on Sunday, ghosting in at the back post to head home Daizen Maeda’s superb cross after a series of critical defensive lapses from hesitant Rangers.

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Celtic, who already beat their fiercest rivals in the League Cup final last month and boast a 13-point lead at the Scottish Premiership summit with just five matches left to play this term, will now be overwhelming favourites to claim their first domestic treble since the 2019/20 campaign under Ange Postecoglou as they face Inverness Caledonian Thistle in their latest showpiece appearance back at Hampden on June 3.

Championship promotion hopefuls Inverness brushed aside third-tier Falkirk 3-0 on Saturday in a repeat of the 2015 final, thanks to a brace from veteran striker Billy Mckay and winger Daniel MacKay’s header.

For Rangers, their last chance at silverware this season has now slipped away in agonising fashion, with the Scottish Cup holders still yet to beat Celtic in an Old Firm derby this season with one final post-split league game to come at Ibrox on May 13.

Michael Beale has lost all but one of his first four games against Postecoglou’s green-and-white juggernaut since being poached from QPR to succeed the sacked Giovanni van Bronckhorst in November, with Rangers’ best chance on Sunday falling to captain James Tavernier, who hit the post with an excellent strike before half-time substitute Fashion Sakala somehow fired the rebound into the side netting.

Though Rangers kept Hoops dangerman Kyogo Furuhashi relatively quiet for a change and despite goalkeeper Allan McGregor only making a handful of relatively comfortable stops, they could not take advantage of an off-colour second half from Celtic, with Tavernier also heading onto the roof of the net during a lively rally and Scott Arfield forcing a low stop from Joe Hart as imperious centre-backs Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt also made several important interventions.

Celtic have now not lost any of the last six Old Firm games after a rotten streak in the Glasgow derby before that and can clinch their 53rd League title with victory over Hearts at Tynecastle next weekend.

Rangers, meanwhile, will seek to bounce back from three losses in their last four matches when they host Aberdeen next, looking for revenge for their recent first defeat by the Dons at Pittodrie since 2018.