Cyriel Dessers: Rangers striker defies doubters to seal Scottish Cup final with Celtic

Cyriel Dessers has spent much of his time as a Rangers player on the back foot.

He's been criticised for the chances he misses rather than the ones he takes, questioned about his lack of of a ruthless side with many in the club's support bemoaning the fact that their board didn't move for Lawrence Shankland in January.

Is Dessers aware of the mood music around him?

You bet he is. How could he not be? Is he showing mental strength in the face of the doubters? Unquestionably. "A beautiful day," he said, later. "It feels special."

Maybe the big man got a bit carried away after that when asked about the league title race. Buoyed by his Hampden goals he said that if Rangers can get their "rhythm" back then "we are the best team in the league." Oh dear.

Normally when you hear that kind from the blue side of the city then bad things normally follow. But he's said it now and needs to back it up.

More days like this would help. The smile on Dessers face at the end of this Scottish Cup semi-final was the smile of a man whose goals had put his team in the final and, perhaps, silenced a few folk.

Not permanently, but for now, until next time. Such is the way of it in Glasgow.

'Dessers numbers defy evidence of own eyes'

Winston Churchill is not necessarily the first person you think of when you watch Dessers playing football, but a famous quote from the former prime minister could be applied to the Rangers striker.

"A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma," said Churchill of world affairs back in the day.

You could say the same about a striker whose numbers this season for Rangers have been excellent, rising to 18 and then 19 in this match-winning effort, but still he's the butt of much flak, a bit of a fall guy, a figure of frustration.

If you looked at the bare numbers of Dessers' time with Rangers, you could only conclude that this guy is one of the most prolific strikers the club has had in the last 20 seasons.

Taking out their years in the lower leagues - where goals were a whole lot easier to come by - his tally is only bettered by the single-season totals of Alfredo Morelos, Kenny Miller, Kris Boyd, Nacho Novo and Dado Prso over the last two decades.

With six games left to play - five in the league and the cup final against Celtic - he's already scored more goals than Antonio Colak, Kemar Roofe and Jermain Defoe ever did in one season.

Over the past 20 years, he's outscored Daniel Cousins and Jean-Claude Darcheville, Peter Lovenkrands, Shota Arveladze and Michael Mols and many other Rangers strikers in that timeframe.

Nobody is saying that Dessers is the second coming of Ally McCoist, but he only needs one more to move ahead of the best season Nikica Jelavic ever had at Ibrox.

Jelavic only had one full one, but Dessers has matched him so far. His numbers defy some of the evidence of our own eyes.

We saw both sides of Dessers' ability at Hampden, the tidy footwork and calm finish for his first goal, then the clumsiness when getting into space to the left of the Hearts goal only to get the ball caught up in his feet much later on.

That was down the Rangers end and they let him have it. Not fury, but a lot of angst. A plaintive cry of the masses.

That emotion didn't last long, of course. His second was down to Todd Cantwell's excellent run in the first instance and his own alertness in following up his first effort, beaten away by Craig Gordon, by putting away his second.

That was the clincher, but there could have been more. Two goals to his name, you have to wonder why he didn't back himself for a third when he went through with Gordon at his mercy. His manager, Philippe Clement, thought the same.

Selflessly, he squared it to Fabio Silva and had Silva scored a simple tap-in, Dessers would have been praised for his awareness and for putting team success above individual glory.

Silva didn't score, though. In collapsing to the floor, Silva looked like an octopus falling out of a tree. Somewhere out there, Peter van Vossen was celebrating. No longer the holder of the greatest missed sitter award.

Before the end, Dessers had another chance, which he pushed wide of Gordon's right-hand post.

It wasn't straightforward and it wasn't costly, not on Sunday. He had his work done by then, he had his reputation enhanced and his confidence boosted.

The Nigerian is a one-man drama, his attempts on goal leaving you in suspense all the while.

Against Hearts, when it counted, he put it all together and won the praise of a manager who desperately needed this victory.

From the despair of the loss to Ross County and the despond of the draw in Dundee, this was a step in the right direction, a win that will take them back here for a cup final against Celtic.

Clement doesn't often show his emotions but after tough times recently he was a relieved man that Dessers delivered.