Brave Hearts suffer narrow loss to Rangers in Scottish Youth Cup final

Hearts Under-18s fell at the final hurdle of the Scottish Youth Cup as Rangers earned a narrow 2-1 win in the final at Hampden Park.

Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 9:36 pm

Darren McInally and Rory Wilson struck in the first half as the Ibrox club seized control. Their opponents from Edinburgh mounted a determined comeback with substitute Murray Thomas scoring in the closing stages, but a late equaliser did not materialise despite Hearts’ best efforts.

Although they had conceded only one goal in this season’s competition prior to kick-off, with striker Makenzie Kirk scoring in every round, their 22-year wait to win this trophy will continue for at least another 12 months.

Both teams lacked nothing in terms of effort and the teenagers on show deserved plaudits for their part in a compelling game of football, with plenty quality on show for the 2,268 crowd.

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Evening spring sunshine over Hampden gave way to a slight chill as young protégés from Glasgow and Edinburgh assumed centre stage at the National Stadium. The cup is the most prestigious accolade on the under-18 calendar and the respective coaches, Hearts’ Steven Naismith and Rangers’ Cameron Campbell, named strong sides.

The Ibrox teenagers looked convincing from kick-off, forcing the Hearts goalkeeper Liam McFarlane into three important stops during the first five minutes. Another on ten minutes prevented Wilson’s free-kick nestling in the top corner.

Naismith encouraged his players to work the ball into forward areas and hold it better in an effort to become an attacking threat in the game. He kicked a water bottle in frustration midway through the opening period as Rangers stifled each move made by those in maroon.

Callum Sandilands’ header from Ewan Simpson's cross following a corner was Hearts’ first attempt on target. Simpson, the subject of reported interest from Aston Villa, looked composed in a deep-lying central midfield role.

Hearts forward Murray Thomas scores against Rangers in the Youth Cup final.

Rangers’ pressure yielded a deserved goal on 34 minutes. Their captain, Mackenzie Strachan, delivered a corner which Hearts wing-back Bobbie McLuckie glanced with his head. The ball landed with McInally for a control and finish befitting the occasion.

Two minutes from the interval it was 2-0 when Wilson’s powerful volley from Kevin Ciubotaru’s deep left-sided cross squirmed beneath McFarlane. Rangers were in command and Hearts faced the proverbial uphill task in the second half.

Kirk and McLuckie both saw shots blocked before the Rangers winger Tyler Pasnik was stretchered off in some pain after hitting a shot and landing awkwardly. Hearts were susceptible to the counter-attack as they pressed high up the pitch seeking a way back into this final.

Substitute Thomas produced a lifeline eight minutes from time. Despite having his shirt pulled by Strachan, he forced his way into the penalty area for a superb angled drive into the bottom corner to reduce the deficit to 2-1.

The late rally hinted at more to come. However, Rangers did enough to see the game out and lift the trophy in front of their support.

Hearts (3-5-1-1): McFarlane; Rathie, Aitken, Flatman; Friel (Ross 66), Pollock, Simpson, Tait, McLuckie; Sandilands (Thomas 46); Kirk (Wilson 75).

Rangers (4-3-3): McConnell; Harkness, Allen, Allan, Ciubotaru; McInally (Dunlop 75), Strachan, Lindsay; Ure, Wilson (Roberts 90), Pasnik (Graham 70).

Referee: Harry Bruce.

Attendance: 2,268.

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