Hibernian will contest the Premier Sports Cup final against Celtic on 19 December after overcoming Rangers 3-1 at Hampden this evening.
Martin Boyle was the man of the match and took home the match ball after a first half hat-trick as we blew away Rangers in the opening 40 minutes.
Scott Arfield pulled a goal back for Rangers and proved to be the only blot on an otherwise flawless performance from us.
Despite not having a competitive game since facing Celtic at the end of October, there was no sign of fatigue as every player gave their all in an exceptional team display.
Jack Ross made a surprising change to his team when he named 21-year-old midfielder, Josh Campbell, among his starting XI. Campbell was joined in the starting line-up by Chris Cadden as the pair replaced Alex Gogic and Jamie Murphy.
Christian Doidge was a welcome sight amongst the substitutes as the Welsh striker continued his return from an Achilles injury that has robbed us of the Welshman’s services since August.
We lined-up in a 3-5-2 formation with Ryan Porteous, Paul Hanlon and Paul McGinn at the back, central midfield trio of Jake Doyle-Hayes, Campbell and Joe Newell were supported on the flanks by Josh Doig and Chris Cadden, whilst Boyle and Kevin Nisbet spearheaded our attack.
Both sides went into the contest without ideal preparations as we dealt with a covid outbreak in our camp whilst Rangers lost talismanic leader, Steve Gerrard. The Ibrox club moved swiftly to bring in Giovanni van Bronckhorst, however the Dutchman was little more than a spectator today as he left team matters to interim management trio - David McCallum, Jermain Defoe and Brian Gilmour.
Rangers started with the 4-3-3 formation that made them successful under Gerrard and they went immediately onto the attack with Hanlon earning a yellow card after only 25 seconds for a crunching challenge on Joe Aribo just outside our penalty area.
Less than three minutes later he joined in referee’s Kevin Clancy’s book by Joe Newell after he to fouled Aribo.
Eventually we settled and on nine minutes we opened the scoring. Newell’s floated corner was missed by Porteous only to ricochet off James Tavernier into the path of Boyle who took a touch to control it before lifting it over Allan McGregor and into the roof of the Rangers net.
It was exactly the start we dreamed of and Boyle’s razor-sharp instincts saw him instantly realise that McGregor was throwing himself towards any low shots and by lifting the ball up he gave the goalkeeper no chance.
Rangers tried to restore parity and had a quick-fire opportunity to do so when Aribo found Alfredo Morelos on the edge of the box and the striker’s angled drive was comfortably saved by Matt Macey.
The match was raging from end-to-end at 100mph as both sides attacked at every opportunity and every player gave a full-blooded performance.
Connor Goldson cut out a Nisbet knock down from a terrific Cadden cross before Tavernier did brilliantly to prevent another Cadden delivery finding Boyle who would surely have notched another. At the other end Ryan Kent found the run of Aribo and only a terrific last-gasp block from the sliding Hanlon prevent him from testing Macey.
On 21 minutes we extended our lead when Nisbet came short to collect a pass from Newell before brilliantly spinning away from Leon Balogun and threading the ball through to Boyle who smashed it low into the far corner of the net.
Rangers were stunned and we were in dreamland as the Hibs supporters celebrated wildly at the far end of the stadium.
In the moments that followed Rangers desperately peppered our goal with shots as Arfield had an effort from distance beaten away by Macey before Aribo shot over the crossbar from an angle.
Arfield went close to reducing arrears when he turned away from Porteous before arching a shot just wide of the far post and then Tavernier attempted to curl a shot in moments later only to drag his effort of target.
Rangers were beginning to put us under pressure however we stood firm and following a counterattack we were awarded a penalty kick when Steve Davis bundled over Boyle inside the box.
Boyle dusted himself down and duly dispatched the penalty to complete his hat-trick and take his tally for the season to 14. The Australian international had put his laces through the ball and smashed it down the middle of McGregor’s goal as the goalkeeper dived to his right.
Moments later, however, a clearance was sliced into the path of Arfield and he curled it into the far corner of the net to give his side a lifeline.
Rangers piled on the pressure in what remained of the first half with Balogun and Goldson heading wide from set pieces as we defended brilliantly.
Leading by two goals going into the interval we knew the second half would be about game management. Rangers would throw everything they could at us, and we just needed to stand up to it and stay strong.
As expected, Rangers were soon on the attack yet, despite their dominance of possession, they carved out little opportunity and every mistake from a player in blue was met with howls of derision from their support.
We were forced into a defensive change when Doig picked up a knock and was unable to continue. Thankfully, the evergreen Lewis Stevenson was on hand and the injury did nothing to alter the solidity of our defensive lines.
Rangers were pouring forward and at times we were unable to get out, however Hanlon led the defensive line superbly and our opponents barely had a sniff of goal.
On 66 minutes a fine whipped free kick from Newell was almost met by the sliding figure of Porteous as we tried to extend our advantage.
Rangers made several changes to try and wrestle away our hold on the game and into the final 20 minutes they did manage to carve out a host of opportunities.
First Goldson headed over the crossbar from a Barisic free kick before Cadden deflected substitute Ryan Jack’s shot just wide of goal.
An injury to Porteous again meant a defensive reshuffle with Darren McGregor replacing him. The substitute had only been on the field a matter of minutes when he had a heart in his mouth moment when his back pass was sliced onto the post by Macey.
That error aside we had defended with aplomb and Rangers rarely looked like reducing the deficit.
That said, they should have pulled a goal back with two minutes remaining when Tavernier’s corner kick was knocked down by Bassey and Goldson scooped the ball high over the crossbar from six yards with the goal at his mercy.
It was the cue for the Rangers fans to pour out of Hampden Park as our supporters stayed behind to celebrate a huge performance from our boys.
We had to withstand enormous pressure at times against the current Scottish champions and we certainly stood up to be counted with everyone playing their part in a famous win.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun (Bassey 80’), Barisic, Kamara (Wright 80’), Davis, Arfield (Hagi 69’), Aribo (Jack 69’), Morelos, Kent (Sakala 60’). Substitutes not used: McLaughlin, Lundstram, Patterson, Bacuna.
Hibernian: Macey, McGinn, Porteous (McGregor 79’), Hanlon, Cadden, Campbell, Doyle-Hayes, Newell, Doig (Stevenson 58’), Boyle, Nisbet (Doidge 79’). Substitutes not used: Dabrowski, Wright, Gogic, Gullan, Allan, Scott.
Referee: Kevin Clancy.