Heart of Midlothian 1-3 Rangers: Danilo finds feet as Philippe Clement leads side to final

Rangers striker Danilo
Danilo earned a crucial penalty following a challenge by Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark

When Danilo Pereira Da Silva was lying in his hospital bed in Glasgow in mid-September, his home city of Sao Paulo must have seemed like a long way away, emotionally as much as geographically.

A signing much-heralded by his then manager, the excitable Michael Beale, he had scored only three goals for his new club, against Livingston, Greenock Morton and St Johnstone - hardly a stellar cast of victims.

The goal against St Johnstone - and the horrible collision with Liam Gordon that accompanied it - was the one that ended up putting him in the surgical ward with a left eye shut as if pounded by a prize fighter and a face swollen in the way it does when you suffer a compound fracture of the cheekbone.

Different club, different city, different country, different language, a busted face and not enough goals to sate a demanding support.

Amid all of this, Danilo sent out a message on Instagram. Smiling face, thumbs up, a scriptures passage about strength in adversity. A Song of Ascents. Positivity, Belief. Those qualities appear to be serving him well.

Rangers folk are still probably trying to work out what they have in their 24-year-old Brazilian, but they're surely a lot further down the road of acceptance than they are with some of those who arrived with him last summer - Sam Lammers, Cyriel Dessers and Jose Cifuentes chief among them.

What they saw from Danilo at Hampden in their comprehensive 3-1 victory over Heart of Midlothian and easy passage to the League Cup final would have pleased them no end.

Danilo had a frustrating first half, but he dug in. He skied a shot over Zander Clark's crossbar from close range early on, then fired over again soon after.

Around the half-hour, his header missed the target. None of these were particularly easy, but none of his attempts were all that convincing.

There's been a dark cloud sitting over the new Rangers attackers from the beginning of the season, a constant and unforgiving examination of their cost and their worth.

In the opening half against Hearts, the team had seven opportunities - decent and half-decent - and were goalless. A touch troubling for the team at the time.

Clement brings clarity and resilience

Rangers' Philippe Clement and captain James Tavernier
Rangers and captain James Tavernier (right) are enjoying happier times under Philippe Clement so far

There is a tendency to see things that aren't there when a new manager arrives at a club. Do the players look fitter and stronger? Are they working harder than before? Do they look happier and better organised? Sometimes it's just optical illusion. Other times, not.

In the case of Philippe Clement, there is a definite clarity in what he is doing. A resilience in his team that seems to be growing.

It's too early to make outlandish statements about where things are going under the new manager in the context of putting any sort of heat on Celtic in the league title race, but, as it stands, they're in a better place than they were.

Even at 0-0 and wasteful, you'd have bet your last fiver on them winning. Previously, you'd have been minded to hedge your bet. Or had no bet at all.

Clement said in the aftermath that he's still learning about his players, and his players, no doubt, are learning about him. He has presence and a pretty stern aura, a 'don't mess with me' vibe that might help harden a soft dressing room.

He doesn't like publicly singling out players for praise after games and only did so with Danilo reluctantly.

The Rangers manager spoke of the Brazilian's focus on the detail of what he's being told, his connectivity with the players around him and how he will get better when he becomes fitter. He mentioned Danilo's impressive return from injury. "He will grow more," Clement said.

Nothing effusive. Nothing over the top. Just a cool analysis rooted in reality. Clement will be glad to have him. An important goal against Hearts in a 2-1 league win, a goal against Dundee in a 5-0 rout and, on Sunday, two assists that turned a 0-0 after 45 minutes into a 2-0 after 55.

The goal that broke open this semi-final was the penalty just after the restart, when Danilo reacted quicker than anybody else to a loose ball in the Hearts box. In he went and down he went under a challenge from Clark, who'd done so much in the first 45 to keep it level.

His reaction was that of a striker alive to the possibilities around him. Clement says that Danilo is not his nailed-on number nine and that others are in his thoughts, but he must be getting there in the pecking order.

You'd like to see what a fully fit and confident Danilo will do in the second half of the season. He looks a substantially better option than Dessers.

Manager adds spark among pyros

The game was done when Rangers found that clinical edge that had eluded them in the first half and made it two, Danilo laying off a pass into the path of Scott Wright, who finished with aplomb. Hearts were a beaten team from that point.

The grim spectacle of pyro at both ends has to be recorded. That's back-to-back semi-finals where pyrotechnics burned and flew on top of what happened at Dens Park a week ago.

Illegal and unsafe, the message isn't getting through because those who turn up with these things have no interest in heeding messages. Onwards and downwards we go on that score.

None of that is relevant to Clement, who has enough on his plate. You get a sense from him that he'd rather stick pins in his eyeballs than over-react to wins like this.

Exuberance doesn't seem to be in his nature, which is a good thing. An appreciation of the big picture that has been lacking at Ibrox for quite a while.

Clement gets it. He gives absolutely nothing away, which is in sharp contrast to his predecessor, who would have stood for hours telling you merrily about every cough and splutter of his supposed 'philosophy'.

We might be wrong, but Clement does not strike you as the type of manager who would use such a word or even divulge the slightest detail about the way he works or thinks. That's no bad thing either.

It's early days, but he looks like the appointment that Rangers needed. Graeme Souness might not agree, but what a former deity at Rangers thinks on that business hardly matters.

The only thing that counts among the Ibrox faithful is the gospel according to Clement and how it's enlivening his growing band of disciples.