John Lundstram epitomized Rangers superhuman effort that made Celtic look average – Barry Ferguson – Barry Ferguson

Character, desire and a team ethic which is all about the collective will to win.

That was the story written by Rangers where there can be no arguments about a result where superhuman effort was required to get one over on Celtic.

Make no mistake, this semi-final performance had to be dug out of physical and mental reserves which speaks volumes about both Gio van Bronckhorst and his players.

After the first 20 or so minutes I thought Rangers to a man were excellent. Look at their energy reserves, they were unbelievable.

The reaction to the disappointment of going behind to Celtic’s opener only served to get them to increase that effort and it was both the physical and mental recovery which was so impressive.

It should have been Celtic who had the kick from scoring first but the opposite was true of a game where the side which wanted it more came through, just as they had against Braga over 120 minutes against Braga last Thursday night.

Make no mistake, Rangers thoroughly deserved to be the team which booked their place in the final.

I don’t like to single individuals out after a display which was all about the team but I’ll make an exception for John Lundstram.

His display was absolutely exceptional and since he came into the team he’s been consistently one of the best performers, if not the best.

He was everywhere at Hampden, in terms of his physicality, his football ability and his intelligence, his energy levels were brilliant. He it was a man of the match display by a country mile.

Van Bronckhorst will know it’s a huge result for him and his changes in bringing on Scott Arfield and Steven Davis were key to turning the game in his side’s favour.

Davis brought a real calming influence just as he always does and Arfield was immense. In terms of his goal, it was a terrific diagonal switch by Connor Goldson, one touch from James Tavernier to get the cross in and Arfield’s finish was sublime.

Arfield is a top player and that’s what he brings to this Rangers team time and time again.

Soccer Football – Scottish Cup Semi Final – Celtic v Rangers – Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain – April 17, 2022 Rangers’ James Tavernier and Amad Diallo celebrate after the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

I felt all of the substitutions made a real impact and that was a key feature of an immense team performance.

As a game I enjoyed it, it was played at a very high tempo. The worry going into it was that Rangers had played extra-time in Europe only a few days earlier but let’s be honest, they were the side which looked as though they would have been able to play another 12O minutes when the full-time whistle was blown.

The better team won, it told me that Rangers are a team full of real athletes who clearly look after themselves as 24 hour professionals.

What people forget is that football at this level isn’t just about fitness and the physical side to the game, so much of it is mental.

To go out at Hampden and give another top class 120 minutes and make Celtic look fairly average is no mean feat and they deserve a lot of credit.

You could see how much it meant to everyone associated with the club as they celebrated at the end of the game.

The sports science department should also give themselves a pat on the back as they will have played a vital role in recent days to make sure the players have the best advice and treatment for their recovery.

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That recovery element has really impressed me. To cope with all the pressure that was placed upon them against Braga in a massive Europa League quarter-final and be ready to go again at Hampden takes some doing.

To go through that again against Celtic and produce a high level performance with high energy levels was the test and that was a nagging doubt in my mind going into yesterday’s game.

They dug into their reserves and the manager made the right changes at the right times. They came up against a team which had been in unbelievable form and that can’t be underestimated.

Van Bronckhorst has come under a bit of pressure after the recent loss to Celtic at Ibrox and the defeat in Braga but what a massive week he had.

These last two games could define the season for Rangers and what has been a good week is now a brilliant week and the manager deserves so much credit. I have answered the critics in the right manner.

Who knows what can happen in the title race, how will Celtic now respond but good teams always respond well so it’s going to be difficult for Rangers to retain the title but anything is possible.

What they need to do is just focus on themselves and continue this way. Now they can look forward to a final against Hearts and try to end a wait since 2011 to bring a domestic trophy back to Ibrox.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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