Unstoppable Celtic Cruise into Quarter-Final
Scottish Cup Fifth Round
Celtic Park, Glasgow
Saturday 11th February
Celtic - 6 (Lustig 20, Dembélé 45, 50, 59, Tierney 86, Brown 90)
Dundee - 0
A Moussa Dembélé hattrick and goals from Mikael Lustig, Kieran Tierney and Scott Brown fired Celtic into the quarter final of the Scottish Cup on Saturday afternoon. Inverness Caledonian Thistle had fended off Elgin City of League two in the previous round but arrived to Parkhead rooted to the bottom of the Scottish Premiership table and without a win in thirteen league games, while Brendan Rodgers has recently steered the hoops to their best ever start to a domestic season. Such a gulf was evident throughout, with Celtic dominating possession and penetrating the Inverness back four with wave after wave of attack. Caley Thistle’s attempts to thwart the flow of the home team were in vain and each of the eleven in green and white stepped up to the plate to ensure that there would be little trouble navigating into the last eight of the competition, and in the end there could be little argument over the 6-0 score-line.
Brendan Rodgers has reiterated time and again this season that in order to be considered a top side in football you need to be able to do two things; begin the match strongly and finish it strongly and once again that was what Celtic did. With only a minute played, Liam Henderson came close to putting the Bhoys in front when he received the ball on the right hand side before making a purposeful run inside, his effort lacking the required curl to trouble Williams however. James Forrest appeared to be in the mood in the opening exchanges and it was his good work on the right hand side that began the move for the opening goal on the twenty minute mark. The Scottish winger controlled a poor Caley Thistle clearance before composing himself to find Nir Bitton in space at the edge of the eighteen yard box. The Israeli had the time and presence of mind to spot the run of Swedish full back Mikael Lustig, before elegantly lifting the ball into the path of his team-mate with a superbly measured pass. The Swede had followed his perfectly timed run with an even better first touch, allowing himself an easy tap-in into the Inverness net. A fine goal and one which was typical of the type of football Celtic have been playing all season.
Lustig is swarmed after scoring Celtic's opener
The lead was doubled just before the interval and while there was an element of good fortune involved, it was no more than Celtic deserved for their dominant first half performance. Forrest was once again involved, this time claiming the assist for Moussa Dembélé’s first goal of the afternoon. It was the Frenchman who began the attack when he dropped deep to receive the ball from Erik Sviatchenko. Tremarco, the Inverness full back was unable to match the Scottish winger’s run and Dembélé was able to find him with a well weighted pass. Forrest’s first touch was sublime, and made the task of returning the ball to Dembélé a more straightforward one. None of the Caley defenders managed to cope with the powerful run of the in-form striker, who’s effort scrambled under the body of Williams in goal. In truth, the Welsh goalkeeper should have been able to deal with the effort but it appears that everything the 20 year old striker touches this season turns to goal.
The second half was very much a continuation of the first and it only took five minutes for yet another Dembélé goal. Scott Brown was brilliant throughout, and it was his great work in the middle of the park that started the move. The captain – in search of his first treble as a Celtic player, cleverly avoided a challenge before finding Mikael Lustig in space on the right hand side. The full back found the ever lively Liam Henderson, and some neat play between himself, Bitton and Sinclair, combined with a little bit of good fortune in how the ball ricocheted off a Caley Thistle player, meant that the ball eventually found itself at the feet of Scott Sinclair at the edge of the eighteen yard box. The English winger managed to turn towards the goal, and appeared ready to pull the trigger, only to have the ball stolen from his feet by a well timed David Raven tackle. Fortunately, the ball fell to the feet of Dembélé and with a goal already to his name on the day, it was difficult to envisage him missing from only a few yards out. Williams was left with no chance after a very cool finish from the hitman to make it 3-0 to the Hoops. You might have been forgiven for believing that the game was finished as a contest, but in terms of goals Brendan Rodgers’ men were only getting started.
Something of a pattern was developing in the game – and it was no surprise to see what players were involved in Celtic’s fourth goal. Dembélé once again received the ball in a deep position, before using his strength to fend off a couple of Caley players. Forrest had been up and down the line like a yo-yo all afternoon but was showing no signs of easing up, and his hard running made it easy for Dembélé to find him. He carried the ball into the opposition penalty box, weaving his way to the bi-line before floating an inviting ball across the goal. The end result was a second hattrick in six days for Dembélé. His powerful running and strength had been a major issue for the Highlanders and it allowed him the space to head the ball past a helpless Williams. It is debateable whether James Forrest would have been picked to start today had the in-form Patrick Roberts not suffered an injury; but he was certainly proving his worth. Despite that, he will be disappointed he didn’t end up on the scoresheet himself as he was gifted a glorious opportunity on sixty six minutes after some lacklustre defending from Inverness. He pounced on a loose pass between the two Caley centre halves and really should have done better with his half volley from about fourteen yards out, which steered just wide of the left hand post– the only disappointment to what was a fantastic performance by the twenty five year old winger.
Constant threat - Forrest and Dembélé celebrate yet another goal
At 4-0 a lot of teams would be guilty of taking the foot off the gas, but Brendan Rodgers has instilled an attitude and hunger into this Celtic side that means no team is safe until the final whistle. Richie Foran learned that the hard way today as the ruthlessness of the home team was once again embodied with two late goals. It was appropriate that they should be scored by Kieran Tierney and Scott Brown, two players who have represented the desire and commitment associated with playing for Celtic all season. The fifth goal was scored by Tierney with four minutes remaining, and more misery was compounded on the Inverness full back Tremarco as it was his man again James Forrest who was provider for the Hoops, with another sublime delivery from the right hand side. Tierney could make no mistake with his header for his first goal of the season in domestic competition. It had been an unusually quiet afternoon for Scott Sinclair; by the incredibly high standards he has set so far this season anyway in what has been a fine debut season for the Englishman. He did play a major part in rounding off a buoyant display by his team though. The former Manchester City winger worked tirelessly all afternoon and it was his persistence that paid off when he dispossessed David Raven, before bursting towards the penalty area where he managed to revert the ball towards substitute Nadir Cifti. His cross was intercepted by an Inverness defender, however Caley legs were tiring and the interception was a less than convincing one – one that was pounced on by Brown who made no mistake with his rifling effort into the back of the net. It was rubbing salt in the wounds of Richie Foran and his Caley Thistle side but few could argue that the 6-0 score-line wasn’t a fair reflection on the performances of the two teams, as Celtic dominated throughout and never really looked to be in any great danger. Inverness will now be looking to bounce back at Tynecastle next Saturday as they continue their fight against relegation, while the Hoops will be seeking to extend their unbeaten domestic run to thirty-one games at home to Motherwell on the same day, and continue their dominance of Scottish football en route to winning their sixth title in a row.