Todd Cantwell lands Rangers chorus of applause as 6 pundits blown away by 'game-changing' Hearts heroics

Todd Cantwell on the ball against Hearts -Credit:SNS Group
Todd Cantwell on the ball against Hearts -Credit:SNS Group

Cyriel Dessers might have been the official Player of the Match after his game-winning brace against Hearts.

But ask the pundits and they'll tell you it should have gone to someone else - midfield maestro Todd Cantwell. The Englishman was key to both Rangers goals at Hampden as they downed the Jambos to reach the final. He played in Dessers for the opener and it was his driving, slaloming run at the death that gave the Nigerian his two bites at the cherry to slot past Craig Gordon and wrap the tie up.

And pundits across three different platforms were unanimous in agreement over who Rangers' main man was. On BBC Sportscene, Neil McCann said: "Rangers needed this big time given the last couple of results. They've been flat but they got off to the best possible start. Rangers controlled it, Hearts didn't have the quality to hurt them. It was all about getting to the final, because now they can look forward to that final.

"But it's about the business end of the Premiership as well. Dessers says they're the best team in the league, well they have to show that now. Because they certainly can't afford another slip-up.

"The best thing about Cantwell's performance was he looked like he wanted to dominate the game. Sometimes he doesn't do that. Sometimes of late, he hasn't looked energised. But today, he was right up for it, finding pockets of space and driving the team forward. Dessers got man of the match, but I'd have probably given it to Cantwell."

And Queen's Park boss Callum Davidson, joining him on the panel, said: "Cantwell was really clever at finding space in behind. All game, he looked to play behind the two Hearts central midfielders. As soon as someone starts the press, he moves off to the side. Hearts had trouble with it all game. At the first goal, nobody was near him. Too many times, he wasn't picked up, and maybe that was Hearts' fault."

On Premier Sports, Ally McCoist pulled double duty as a co-commentator and a pundit and he said after the game: "The better team won. I was a little bit disappointed with Hearts. I thought they'd have a go, but I don't think they showed enough intent or general aggression to win the game. The second goal wins it but up until that point, Rangers looked comfortable, without being brilliant.

"The one thing about Cantwell, if you're a young boy or girl watching how to play the game, superb. He let it go through him at times. his all round game today was very, very good."

Robert Snodgrass then said: "On the second goal, Rowles and Kent just back off and give him 20 or 25 yards to keep running. A player like Cantwell, that's what he wants. He lays it in, rebound, and Dessers keeps his composure to score."

Cyriel Dessers celebrates his opening goal -Credit:SNS Group
Cyriel Dessers celebrates his opening goal -Credit:SNS Group

And Alan Hutton, to murmurs of agreement from the two men joining him, said: "I thought Todd Cantwell did really well today. He kept the ball, he looked confident. Great feet to lay it into Dessers, and it's a good striker's finish. I know Dessers gets man of the match, but I'd have given it to Cantwell."

And on BBC Sportsound, a magnanimous John Robertson said: "I don't think you can argue the best team won. Rangers created more clear-cut chances. They got the early goal they wanted to give them that lift, and pretty much controlled the first half. Hearts didn't really work Jack Butland and never created that opportunity.

"Second half they changed it. They carried a greater threat with Kenneth Vargas through the middle. But Todd Cantwell kept getting in that pocket of space and he changed the game."