Match of the Decade No.14 “A 114-year wait comes to an end.”

Number 14: “A 114-year wait comes to an end.”

Match: Rangers 2 – 3 Hibernian | Date: 21st May 2016 | Competition: Scottish Cup Final

Some things in life are worth waiting for. The wait can heighten expectations, build drama, and create memories that will last a lifetime. 

After forty-one thousand, six hundred and sixty-five days of waiting, fans of the then Scottish Championship side Hibernian finally witnessed the conclusion of their Scottish Cup drought.


Overview:

The 131st Scottish Cup final was contested at Hampden Park between Rangers and Hibernian in a memorable encounter that will certainly be looked back on fondly by one particular set of fans.

Rangers entered the match as the favourites to lift the cup for the 34th time. The side lifted the Scottish Championship earlier in the month and many fans’s predicted the newly-promoted side would complete a ‘double’. Meanwhile, as it has been noted, Hibernian was a team that many people looked out for since they were attempting to end their 114-year wait of lifting the Scottish Cup.

Despite their underdog status heading into the match, Hibs didn’t start the game that way. Before the third minute had even passed, they were already leading thanks to a solo goal from forward Anthony Stokes.

Jason Cummings retrieved the ball out wide and played it out to the left to the eventual goalscorer from around 40 yards out. For his entire run, Stokes barely encountered any danger. It looked like the Rangers’ players were preparing for a cross instead and decided to give the forward the freedom on the ball. However, as a result of this, the then 27-year-old kept his composure as he slid the ball past goalkeeper Wes Foderingham to take the lead for his team.

Following the goal, Rangers did well to stay in the game but they did struggle against Hibs’ counter-attacks and failed to create chances at goal. Minutes after their first goal, Hibernian came close to leading the game 2-0 on two separate occasions.

First, a beautiful pass from Lewis Stevenson cut through Rangers’ defence to the feet of Cummings but he was unable to get into a good position for a shot. Afterwards, a magnificent first-time ball from Stokes was met by Cummings but he was unable to get the ball past defender Danny Wilson. The Scottish defender did a great job of preventing the side from taking a 2-0 lead.

Later in the half, Rangers were finally able to grab their equaliser. In the 27th minute, forward Kenny Miller headed the ball home following an excellent cross from right-back James Tavernier.

The remainder of the half was full of back and forth action between the two sides. At one point, it looked like Hibs would take the lead as Stokes’ strike hit the post. Afterwards, Rangers looked like they would be the ones to score next after Miller’s headed effort struck the crossbar. But, the half eventually ended with the two sides drawing.

In the second-half, the action continued with both sides fighting to score that all-important second goal in the game.

In the 64th minute, it was Rangers who finally took the lead thanks to a wonderful strike from Andy Halliday. The midfielder received the ball following a simple pass from Barrie McKay, tapped the ball slightly forward to adjust his positioning, and then proceeded to strike the ball home from around 30 yards out. His goal was simply spectacular.

With Rangers in the lead for the first time, they looked far more comfortable on the ball and they were beginning to control the game more efficiently. However, Hibs looked promising during their attacks at times and manager Alan Stubbs opted for a tactical change that eventually turned the game in his favour. His decision to replace Liam Fontaine with Liam Henderson, in particular, proved to be crucial for his side.

Although they mostly looked threatening on their counter-attacks, Henderson’s delivery from corners played a pivotal part in Hibernian’s eventual victory.

In the 80th minute, his corner into the box was met by the head of Stokes who scored the all-important equaliser for his side. The underdogs finally found the confidence they needed while Rangers began to make errors and lacked sharpness on the ball. Following a few chances from both sides, the game completely turned on its head in the 92nd minute of the game.

Once again, Liam Henderson found himself taking the corner from the left side and his delivery was exceptional once again. This time, the ball was met by none other than Hibernian captain David Gray who headed the ball home and ended his side’s 114-year wait of lifting the Scottish Cup.


My Overall Thoughts:

Unfortunately, I didn’t pay much attention to Hibs’ overall journey to the Scottish Cup final. It was around the time of their quarter-final replay where I really got invested in their story because, as many people have said, this fixture was 114 years in the making. It’s stories like this that made me fall in love with football; I don’t think it could have been improved on or changed in any way.

When you have such an attachment to a football club and you see them achieve something so memorable, like the Scottish Cup in Hibernian’s case, it makes the overall moment significantly better.

The semi-final was a really dramatic affair, especially in the penalty shoot-out, as Hibernian won 4-2 on penalties. Watching the game and shoot-out unfold as it did increased my excitement for the eventual final because I wanted to see Hibernian lift the trophy that had alluded them for so many years. I wouldn’t be surprised if other neutrals thought the same as me.

The final was just a fantastic story in itself. Hibernian scored first to take the game to 1-0 but afterwards they conceded twice which added to the tension and built up the spectacle of their eventual victory.

Watching the side go from 2-1 down to winning the game 3-2 in the final 15 minutes played a crucial role in me loving this game of football. As I mentioned in my Belgium vs Japan piece, I love comeback stories and last-minute goals in football and once again this game had both.

These are the moments in football that will always stick with you and in terms of this game, I think I will always remember David Gray’s goal despite having no affiliation to Hibernian.


Other Thoughts:

As part of this series, I also wanted to learn about different thoughts and feelings that other fans had to this game. While I’ve previously discussed my love for this fixture and why it was included in my “Matches of the Decade” series, I also think it’s beneficial to learn and hear the stories from people that have a deeper connection to the game in question.

With that being said, I was fortunate enough to talk to one Hibernian fan, in particular, about his experiences with this game and this is what he had to say:

Freddie White – Hibernian season-ticket holder.

“I can remember the game clearly, from the moment I woke up in the morning. I remember I wasn’t feeling very great, I had a cold, I was even debating about whether I should go. But, my family were all season ticket holders and we just thought there was no chance we were missing the game.”

“In the ground, people started to sing while others were coming in, it was a very good atmosphere. By kick-off it was crazy, the place was absolutely buzzing. We scored after three minutes and I said to my fiancee that I don’t think I’ve ever heard the roar as loud as that goal, it was incredible. The noise was just phenomenal, the fans were going crazy. Afterwards, it was a bit of a blur, we just got caught up in it all.” 

“Rangers scored and the funny thing is the person that scored was actually my best friend, Kenny Miller. It was a strange feeling, it was nice to see him do well but it was also heartbreaking. After that, I thought ‘here we go, we’ve been here before.’ Then Rangers scored an absolute screamer from Andy Halliday, it was a phenomenal strike. By this point, the Hibs fans were getting on their [the player’s] backs a bit and the atmosphere was really quiet, you could only hear the odd shout here and there.”

“But then, we equalised. I didn’t see it coming. We got the equaliser and you could see Rangers were shocked. Their energy was getting drained, you could see they were struggling to win the 50-50 balls and then we have a corner. Liam Henderson crosses it in and David Gray scores. It felt like the air was sucked out of that stadium, I couldn’t breathe for about 10 minutes. It was crazy. I dropped to my knees to grab my boy because I knew what was happening but even he was going nuts. He’s Hibs crazy. It really was brilliant.”

“When the full-time whistle blew I had my phone out. I knew at 3-2 we weren’t going to lose that game. I recorded the game and the crowd’s reaction because I knew that I was watching something special. This was 114 years since our club won this trophy so to be there and to take it in was surreal. I made sure I had it on my phone as a memory, it’s always there.” 

“It was just unbelievable. I’ve never ever been at a game like that before and I’ll certainly never feel that level of joy in football again, even if we win the cup again. The way that we won the game made it special.”


Thumbnail image captured by: V&A Dudush | Edited to fit theme. |Protected under Creative Commons.

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