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   Saturday, 4 May, 2002, 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK
The Ferguson final
Barry Ferguson celebrates scoring Rangers' second equaliser
Barry Ferguson scored Rangers' second goal

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The phrase of the week was "too close to call" and so it proved for much of a tense but enthralling Scottish Cup final.

Both sides are now so evenly matched, both in terms of ability and, no less importantly, team spirit.

Celtic have shown over the course of the season that are the best team in the land, but Rangers took a significant step towards closing the gap at Hampden on Saturday.

That Barry Ferguson should choose the day to produce one of his most inspired performances in a Rangers jersey was central to that.

Celtic's Martin O'Neill and Rangers' Alex McLeish
Alex McLeish (right) is closing the gap
Twice after going behind, captain Ferguson refused to allow Rangers heads to go down, probing away at what has been a virtually impenetrable defence this season.

A free kick of stunning quality dragged his side level with 20 minutes remaining and the delight on the young midfielder's face told a simple story - Ferguson loves playing for Rangers.

Whether he will be doing so next season remains to be seen, with his list of admirers sure to have grown even further after this game.

Of course, Rangers' revival can also be put down to the arrival of another man - Alex McLeish.

He has restored a self-belief in the players that allows them to believe that they can come from behind to beat their oldest rivals.

McLeish has also brought in fringe players like Peter Lovenkrands - a man who seems to make a habit of scoring against Celtic.

The Dane did so twice on Saturday and has taken on the role of tormentor-in-chief of Celtic, a role previously occupied by his hero, Brian Laudrup.

Players' player of the year Lorenzo Amoruso enjoyed an almighty tussle with John Hartson, with honours even at the end.

But Craig Moore had a quieter afternoon against the strangely subdued Henrik Larsson - the Swede rarely threatened the Rangers goal.

Lorenzo Amoruso tackles Celtic's Henrik Larsson
Lorenzo Amoruso (left) battled hard for Rangers
Martin O'Neill's decision to risk three of his stalwarts despite a lack of match fitness almost paid off.

Though Paul Lambert's participation ended prematurely, Chris Sutton and Bobo Balde showed little sign of rustiness during the 90 minutes.

Sutton was as composed as ever at the back and Balde at one stage looked to have swung the game Celtic's way.

Having set up the first goal, his ability to rise above Amoruso at will allowed him to head Celtic into the lead.

The one blot on his copybook was a crucial one, however, the towering Frenchman conceding the free kick that led to Ferguson's equaliser.

But it was Ferguson's day and, if it proves to be his Ibrox swansong, it was a memorable one.

 Captain Barry Ferguson
"Absolutely delighted"

Big match action



The road to Hampden


See also:

04 May 02 | Scottish Cup
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