GLASGOW, Scotland — Fallen Scottish power Rangers marked the latest stage in its recovery by beating Glasgow rival Celtic, 5-4, on penalties to reach the Scottish Cup final on Sunday.
Already preparing for its return to the Scottish Premiership next season, victory for Rangers in a match that finished 2-2 after extra time means it now has a shot at a first major title since winning the top flight in 2011. The following year Rangers was forced into liquidation in 2012 with tax debts exceeding $30 million and the re-formed club had to start again in the fourth tier, the country's lowest professional league.
The financial meltdown denied Scottish football regular heated matches with international appeal between the "Old Firm" rivals. The only derby in the last four years before Sunday was last year's League Cup semifinal which Celtic won 2-0.
Celtic was the heavy favorite again at Hampden Park with the team, managed by Norwegian Ronny Deila, on its way to a fifth consecutive Premiership title - but Rangers defied the odds.
Rangers was twice in front. Kenny Miller's goal was canceled out by Celtic defender Erik Sviatchenko's header and in extra time Barrie McKay's superb strike looked to have won it for Rangers until Tom Rogic equalized. But in the shootout it was Rogic's missed penalty that sent Rangers into the final where it will face Hibernian, which also plays in the second tier Championship.
"I was irritated by people underestimating Rangers," Rangers manager Mark Warburton said. "I read reports about them getting battered by Celtic today. Well (Rangers) showed today that they've got quality, they've got the commitment and the work ethic and that gap is a lot, lot narrower than people are talking about.
"We've been good this season. We're not clear in the league by 17 points by chance. We deserve to be and the young squad has come together quickly."
Rangers, the record 54-time winner of the top flight, has already secured promotion to the Premiership by winning the Championship.
"I'm just delighted for the fans," Warburton said. "They've been in some dark places over the last four or five years, so it's tremendous that they can enjoy days like today."
Matches between Celtic and Rangers are among the most bitterly contested in world soccer, with the clubs traditionally divided along mostly sectarian lines — Roman Catholics supporting Celtic and Protestants behind Rangers.
There was no major trouble reported at the national stadium on Sunday ahead of the rivalry resuming on a regular.
"We are going to be ready when they come up," Deila said. "Now we are top of the league and we are going to fight to get that title to Celtic Park. We will see next year what they have to offer.
"It is a totally different thing to do something over 38 games than to do it over one."