Hibs reduced Rangers to tatters when winning this semi-final tie at Hampden 2-0 – a scoreline which gives no indication of what a one-sided display it turned out to be.
And, after such an easy victory against one side of the Old Firm, Hibs can face the May 6 final against Celtic with a considerable amount of confidence in the knowledge it will be a contest between two skilled teams. Only rash finishing by Hibs prevented this replay occasion from developing into Rangers’ unhappiest experience since they lost 7-1 to Celtic in the 1957 League Cup final. It was remarkable that the Ibrox team could still be in contention at half-time, only one goal in arrears – in view of the way Hibs had carved up their defence.
With centre-half Colin Jackson reduced to stopping Alan Gordon by any available means, and not always being penalised, Rangers found that their man-marking tactics were tailor-made for Hibs to perform a demolition job. Willie Mathieson was earmarked to shadow Alex Edwards, who played a strict midfield role. He took the left-back for a walk and left so big a gap to be exploited on the right that a fleet of buses could have been driven through the hole.
It was from this area that Hibs developed their first goal and they used the open space expertly as the Ibrox defenders tried everything in their power to stem the flow of attacks.
Indeed, Rangers were outplayed in every phase, betaen by a bunch of players who worked and grafted for each other and who took up where they left off in the first game.
It was evident right away that Hibs were in an aggressive, fear-nothing mood so that they carried the game to Rangers and dictated it with Edwards and Pat Stanton superb in midfield. Eventually, Edwards played cat and mouse with the opposition as Hibs decided that two goals were quite sufficent. It is perhaps wrong to single out any individual in the Easter Road outfit, for they all contributed to earning a final place. John Hazel, a recent replacement for Joe Baker, might have had a hat-trick yet the youngster did everyhting else well and deserves a break from the fans.
Eric Schaedler had another notable game at left-back and cleared Rangers’ most dangerous first-half raid, when he whipped the ball off Colin Stein’s toes slap in front of goal.
Rangers must be disturbed by the result bearing in mind their European Cup Winners’ Cup final in Barcelona next month. Certainly, they will have John Greig back to rally the forces but a defensive overhaul might be necessary. True, they had to replace the injured and booked Derek Parlane shortly after half-time but his misfortune had no effect on the outcome. Apart from goalkeeper Peter McCloy, who made many excellent saves, Rangers did not have an outstanding player.
Hibs were set for success in 11 minutes. That was when Jimmy O’Rourke utilised the great gap to put Stanton through to score with a shot that touchedJackson on the way in. Soon afterwards, Derek Johnstone moved from cover centre-half into attack as Dave Smith stepped back though this change brought more confusion than improvement.
There followed a passage of frantic pressure during which hands were used in the box and Jackson cleared off the line from Hazel. Mathieson was booked for kicking Edwards, McCloy pushed a header from Hazel onto the bar and Stanton missed a chance near half-time.
McCloy made two fine stops off O’Rourke as Jim Denny made his appearance as Rangers’ 12th man. John Brownlie was booked for trying to grab Willie Johnston and Jim Herriot prevented an equaliser from Tommy McLean.
Referee Webster appeared to have different ideas from anyone else as to what constituted a penalty, but Hibs required no help once they collected a magnificent second goal in 66 minutes.
Hazel sent a crossfield pass to Gordon, who chased the ball to the left. He measured a cross to the far post, Hazel nodded it down and Edwards stroked the ball home. All so cleverly executed.
Rangers: McCloy; Jardine, Mathieson; Parlane (Denny), Jackson, Smith; McLean, D Johnstone, Stein; McDonald, W Johnstone.
Hibs: Herriot; Brownlee, Schaedler; Stanton, Black, Blackley; Edwards, Hazel, Gordon; O’Rourke, Duncan. Sub (not used) Baker.