Gers through on penalties
Rangers keeper is spot-kick hero
Last Updated: April 20, 2008 9:42pm
Alexander celebrates win
Goalkeeper Neil Alexander was the hero as Rangers booked their place in the
Scottish Cup final with a penalty-shoot victory over St Johnstone.
Alexander - between the sticks for the injured Allan McGregor - saved spot-kicks from both Steven Milne and Jody Morris after Nacho Novo had cancelled out Daniel McBreen's opener in extra-time.
Rangers will now face another First Division side - Queen of the South - at Hampden in the showcase on 24th May.
With the pursuit of four trophies this season finally beginning to take its toll, the last thing Rangers needed was the loss of two players in the opening 20 minutes at Hampden.
Chris Burke was first leave the pitch on a stretcher after just eight minutes after being caught in the ankle by a crunching challenge from Kevin Rutkiewicz.
There was further concern when Steven Naismith limped off the park after being stamped on by Martin Hardie.
He was able to return to the action but, like Burke, left on a stretcher seconds later after appearing to damage his knee and was replaced by Steven Davis with 20 minutes gone.
Rangers attempted to recover from the losses in personnel by cranking up the pressure and Kevin Thomson embarked on an impressive run past two Saints players before firing wide when a delicate chip would have been a better option.
Novo passed up the best chance of the first half when he pounced on a dreadful pass back from Goran Stanic only for his shot to clip the body of veteran goalkeeper Alan Main and trundle wide of the far post.
Stanic went some way to redeeming himself moments later when he intercepted a lovely flick from Davis from the left, with Daniel Cousin loitering with intent in front of goal and waiting for a simple finish from a few yards.
The second half was just a minute old when Main was called into action. Novo threw himself in front of a Whittaker cross from the right flank only to look on in disbelief as the 40-year-old tipped the header just over.
At the other end, St Johnstone offered up their best chance so far. Hardie's nod-down fell to the feet of Milne, who unleashed a powerful shot from 18 yards that would have been unstoppable had it been on target.
Rangers could have all but killed off the turgid tie with 10 minutes to go when Whittaker raced onto a Davis ball but was denied by Main, who pounced off his line to produce a timely block before the full-back could pull the trigger.
Rangers threw everything at their First Division challengers. Novo collected a long ball from Alexander and flicked into the path of Cousin but Main was first to the ball, before Davis saw a close-range header hooked off the line by Craig as the tie went into extra-time.
Substitute McBreen finally broke the deadlock with 94 minutes on the clock. Paul Sheerin provided a teasing cross from the left and McBreen connected in plenty of space to dispatch a downward header past Alexander.
But Rangers were back on level terms eight minutes later when Cousin was tripped in the box by Gary Irvine and referee Dougie McDonald immediately pointed to the spot.
Novo did the honours from 12 yards and finally breached Main's goal with a finely struck penalty which nestled in the keeper's right-hand corner.
The epic last four clash was eventually decided by a shoot-out, with Alexander saving a penalty from Milne, and Main denying Brahim Hemdani, before the Rangers keeper blocked from Morris to finally secure a place in the Scottish Cup final.