Mark Warburton's Tragic HatScottish League Cup semi-final
The Hoops book a Scottish League Cup final place with a 1-0 victory, courtesy of Moussa Dembele
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Sunday October 23, 2016
CELTIC - 1
THE RANGERS - 0
Moussa Dembele struck again. In the 87th minute, half of Hampden erupted as a lovely through ball from Griffiths was deftly flicked through two pairs of legs and into the back of the net. It almost felt like the goal was never coming, as Celtic were wasteful with their chances despite dominating play. The goal was no less than the Hoops deserved, with the victory securing a League Cup final against Aberdeen, who disposed of Greenock Morton in yesterday's other semi-final.
Mark Warburton set The Rangers up to play defensively, with a third man in between both centre backs. Their plan was to utilise the intelligent movement of Kenny Miller and the forward runs of their midfield to capitalise on the counter attack. However, the first half saw zero attempts on goal for the blue side of Glasgow. The second half saw an improvement, with the Gers managing 8 attempts, but only 3 on target.
Brendan Rodgers made one change to his recent first eleven, as Simunovic came in for Toure, who was carrying a knock. Some fans expressed worry about Simunovic starting in such a high pressure match, as he has spent a lot of his time at Celtic out with injury, but his performance throughout the game was composed.
Celtic started the match on the front foot, immediately looking for a goal, but the opposition defence remained resolute. What followed this was several minutes of ping pong football, with the ball bouncing around between the teams, neither wanting to give an inch of space.
The Hoops' first sniff of goal came in the fourth minute when Bitton had the ball in the centre circle, threading a diagonal ball through towards the marauding Tierney. Gilks, the Gers goalkeeper, was first to the ball.
In the 9th minute, Sinclair made a diagonal run in from the left, passing the ball into the feet of Rogic, who unleashed a shot, but the deflection looped it high over the bar for a Celtic corner. The referee then had to deal with some tussling in the box between Hill and Sviatchenko. Rogic floated in the corner but it floated out to the edge of the box and onto the head of Kenny Miller, who cleared it.
The next major incident of the match came in the 14th minute after some pressure from Rangers. There was a loose ball in the 18 yard box, to which Simunovic got his foot too. Seconds before this, Barrie McKay attempted to con the referee into awarding Rangers a penalty by diving theatrically. Hearts of Celtic fans everywhere stopped as Craig Thomson blew his whistle, with a huge cheer from the Rangers end. It looked like a penalty had been awarded until Thomson walked straight up to McKay and flashed a yellow card, much to the amusement of the Hoops faithful.
Less than a minute after this incident, Dembele intercepted a slack Gers pass, ran forward and lifted his head. He spotted the run of Scott Sinclair down the left and weighted a beautiful pass to the Celtic winger. Sinclair was under pressure immediately and his shot was saved by the left leg of Gilks.
In the 21st minute, Gilks fluffed a pass under pressure from Tom Rogic. The ball fell directly to the Aussie midfielder but his first touch let him down and Gilks recovered to put the ball out for a corner. The resulting corner saw Dembele break free of his marker and hit a volley, which was saved by Gilks. It wouldn't have mattered if it went in, as Thomson had deemed Dembele to have fouled Hill as the corner came in.
Moussa Dembele was fortunate to not be booked for diving in the 27th minute as he went down in the box following a high ball in from Scott Sinclair. Under a minute later, Rogic turned Halliday in the middle of the park after receiving a pass from Sinclair. He then ran forward with the ball and narrowly put the ball wide of the left post.
32 minutes on the clock had gone when Scott Brown won the ball and proceeded to chip a lovely ball forward to Moussa Dembele, who was ruled to be offside. Despite Celtic going forward often, there was no clear cut chances at this stage of the match and the nerves of the fans continued.
Continued pressure came from Celtic, but Warburton's ultra defensive tactics were holding firm. Celtic were putting crosses in but the Gers defence continued to clear them. Kieran Tierney managed to get a shot at goal in the 42nd minute but the low drive was easily saved by Gilks.
At the start of the second half, James Forrest had two chances on goal, but the first was put over the bar and wide and the second was blocked. The resulting corner was header down by the Gers defender, with Scott Brown snatching the loose ball and playing it back out to Scott Sinclair. The Englishman then whipped another cross into the box to be met by the head of Erik Sviatchenko. A great header from the Dane found its way into the back of the net. Unfortunately, the referee disallowed the goal for an apparent foul on Clint Hill by Sviatchenko. Replays show that it was the wrong decision from Thomson, who's error was one of many in a poor refereeing performance. The reaction of the Rangers defence told you that they thought it was a legitimate goal too.
Scott Sinclair was wrongly called offside two minutes later as Dembele sent a through ball for Sinclair to have a chance on goal. However, the shot was saved by Gilks, who's performance was keeping the Ibrox club in the game.
Rogic had an attempt on goal on 57 minutes, but he dragged the shot narrowly wide. Rogic had a solid game and on another day he would have scored that opportunity.
One minute after this, came Rangers' best opportunity of the match. Tavernier cross a low ball in for Holt who hit a shot towards goal, only for Simunovic to block it. The follow up shot from McKay was comfortably saved by Craig Gordon.
Celtic's next big chance came on the 61st minute, with Rogic spinning on the ball again before playing a delightful chip over the Rangers defence, into the path of Dembele. The Frenchman controlled the ball with his chest, but the bounce took the ball slightly away from his foot as he hit the shot and in the end his effort was
A minute later, Stuart Armstrong saw his introduction to the match, as he replaced Nir Bitton. The Israeli midfielder's performance has been deemed as below par by large sections of the Celtic support; his form needs to greatly improve. Perhaps the lack of depth in central midfield is the main reason that Bitton still commands a starting position in this Celtic side.
On the 67th minute of the match, club captain Scott Brown ran forward with the ball and was fouled on the outside of Rangers' 18 yard box. Scott Sinclair stepped up to hit the free kick and the ball rattled off the crossbar. The rebound hit the back of Gilks' hand and denied the oncoming Dembele any chance of an attempt on goal.
Leigh Griffiths was introduced to the match in place of Tom Rogic on the 70th minute, with the Celtic support chanting his name, clearly happy to see the striker on the pitch. Griffiths had an immediate impact on the match, causing problems for the Gers defence, especially with a cross that Clint Hill was fortunate to clear.
As the game wore on, nerves started to appear as the Celtic attack weren't able to find a breakthrough. However, Celtic had a big penalty shout in the 82nd minute as Scott Sinclair was brough down in the box by Lee Wallace. Replays showed the faintest of touches on the ball from the Gers defender, but he took the Celtic winger out long before he made any contact with the ball.
On the 86th minute, Forrest played a ball into the box for Armstrong, who's shot was saved by Gilks and went out for a Celtic corner. Sinclair swung the corner in but it was headed clear. Armstrong then reiceved the ball again for a second attempt on goal, which went high and wide.
In the 87th minute, a high ball from Rangers was headed down by Sviatchenko. The ball landed at Armstong's feet who swiftly passed it back a few yards to Brown. Brown then played the ball further back to Simunovic who lauched a long diagonal ball towards Leigh Griffths. The Scottish striker then used his intelligence to get away from Lee Wallace (who was ball watching), to receive the long pass. He spotted the run of Moussa Dembele into the box and while most thought he was about to shoot, he used the outside of his left foot to play in a low pass for Dembele, who ran across goal and flicked the ball through two pairs of legs and into the back of Gilks' net.
The Celtic fans erupted and celebrated a goal well deserved. In truth, the match was a one sided affair, with The Rangers offering very little in attack and anything but a win for Celtic would have been viewed as an injustice.
Man of the match: Scott Brown
Brendan Rodgers' post match comments
“I thought we were very dominant in terms of chances and the power, quality and strength in our game today,” he said.
“Sometimes you never know if the chances don’t go in or maybe you don’t get that little bit of luck that is deserving of it, that you’re always vulnerable to a counter-attack but I thought how we went about the game today was brilliant.
“The players stopped them building and any time they did try to do that the pressure and intensity of the press we were able to put on them was at a real high level. When we had the ball we created opportunities and looked a real threat going forward.
“So in every element of our game it was at a high level. When you consider coming off the back of a really tough Champions League game in mid-week, every single one of the players deserve a huge amount of credit for not only the performance but their strength and mentality to get the victory.”
“It was wonderful play, Leigh came in and he and Stuart Armstrong were brilliant.
“Stuart added a real thrust and energy into our game. We’ve played a lot of games this season and because of the nature of how we play the game there’s a high level of physicality needed to press and be aggressive and shorten the pitch.
“The minute that drops we need to reinvigorate the team. Stuart came on and added great power and running ability to the team. Leigh came on and did what he does best. He looked a real threat and was disappointed he didn’t score but he showed his real unselfish nature by just guiding it into Moussa’s path and he had a real clever finish to give us the winning goal.”
He added: “It’s been a great start to the season for us. You see the collective mentality and spirit within the team. I know there are areas here I want to improve over time but I think the players and what they are giving - they are performing magnificently well.
“They have that hunger to succeed and are playing the game at a real top level tempo both with and without the ball.
“In order to rubber stamp that you want to get trophies and in order to do that you need to get to the final. We’ve got to the final, we can put it to bed now and can concentrate on that in a number of weeks time but it was a great performance deserving of getting to the final.”
CELTIC (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Bitton (Armstrong 63), Brown; Forrest (Gamboa 90), Rogic (Griffiths 70), Sinclair; Dembele
Not used: De Vries, Toure, Roberts, McGregor
RANGERS (4-3-3) Gilks; Hodson, Hill, Kiernan, Wallace; Windass (Garner 70), Halliday, Holt; Tavernier, Miller (Waghorn 70), McKay (Dodoo 78)
Not used: Foderingham, Crooks, Senderos, O’Halloran,