Scottish Cup semi-final
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Sunday, April 15, 2018
(Rogic 22, McGregor 38, Dembele 51 pen. Ntcham 78 pen.)
CELTIC booked their place in the Scottish Cup final and kept their dream alive of back-to-back trebles after outclassing city rivals, Rangers, 4-0 in a one-sided contest at Hampden.
The Hoops took control from the first whistle and goals from Tom Rogic and Callum McGregor had them in charge at the break. Moussa Dembele added number three from the spot early in the second half after he’d been hauled back in the box by Ross McCrorie, who saw red for his troubles.
That effectively put the result beyond doubt, but Olivier Ntcham compounded the Ibrox side’s misery from the spot with 12 minutes left on the clock following Jason Holt’s foul on Partick Roberts.
The champions’ reward for a sensational showing is a return to the National Stadium on May 19, when they will square up to Motherwell for the silverware. And they will hope to do that in possession of a seventh successive title, with Brendan Rodgers’ side only one win away from clinching the championship.
The manager had made three changes to the team that won away to Hamilton last week. James Forrest and Rogic replaced Patrick Roberts and Scott Sinclair, while Craig Gordon took his place between the sticks in preference to Scott Bain.
It only the Celts five minutes to come within inches of taking the lead. Ntcham swung in the ball from the right and Dembele met it with a venomous volley which smashed off the post with goalkeeper Wes Foderingham beaten.
The Hoops continued to look the more assured side in the opening exchanges and Dembele almost burst through on goal after collecting a return pass from Rogic, but Russell Martin’s last-ditch clearance denied the striker after he’d held off the attentions of McCrorie
Ntcham was next to try his luck, firing over after a jinking run, before a low cross from Kieran Tierney caused further consternation in the Rangers backline. It was all Celtic, and two corners from McGregor almost produced the opener. His first delivery almost crept in at the far post until a fingertip save from Foderingham, and his second cross was inches away from being met by the onrushing Dedryck Boyata.
The pressure finally told in the 25th minute. Dembele did well to hold the ball up and slide a pass inside for Forrest who then fed Rogic. The Australian sidestepped McCrorie before coolly slotting the ball home to send the Hoops faithful into ecstasy.
Moments later, it could easily have been 2-0. Rogic again found himself bearing down on Foderingham after a clever dummy from Dembele, but this time he couldn’t apply the finish.
The Hoops looked a threat every time they ventured forward and only Martin’s late intervention prevented Rogic from getting another strike on goal following more good work from Dembele, who was leading the line superbly with his power and pace.
Lustig and Ntcham shot wide from distance as the onslaught on the Rangers goal continued. Aside from a Daniel Candeias cross, which was dealt with by Boyata, it was one-way traffic.
Brendan Rodgers’ men got the second goal their dominance deserved seven minutes before the break. Tierney danced past Candeias down the left and swung an inviting cross into the mix. Martin could only divert into the path of McGregor, who picked his spot with a fantastic first-time finish.
That prompted Rangers boss Graeme Murty to make an early change, with Josh Windass introduced in place of Andy Halliday in an attempt to stem the Celtic tide.
However, things went bad to worse for the Ibrox side after the interval as they were quickly reduced to 10 men. Dembele outmuscled McCrorie in a chase for a ball over the top and was pulled back by the young defender in the box. Referee, Bobby Madden, instantly pointed to the spot and gave McCrorie his marching orders. Dembele made no mistake from the spot, deceiving Foderingham with a cheeky ‘Panenka’ finish.
Stung into action, Rangers briefly rallied, with Gordon producing three superb saves from Alfredo Morelos, including one incredible stop from the Columbian striker at point-blank range after Lustig’s mis-hit clearance had cannoned off the bar.
But the Bhoys soon re-established their control on proceedings, using their man advantage to patiently pass the ball around and wait for further chances. And Rangers’ resistance crumbled again as the game entered its closing stages.
Roberts, who had replaced James Forrest five minutes earlier, was sent tumbling in the box by Holt and referee, Madden, had no option other than to award another spot-kick. This time Ntcham took responsibility and he confidently found the corner.
And as the clock ticked down and the final whistle sounded, the Celtic support celebrated a wonderful win and saluted Brendan Rodgers and his players after a magnificent display.
CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest (Roberts 73) Rogic (Sinclair 60), McGregor; Dembele (Griffiths 80)
Not Used: Bain, Simunovic, Kouassi, Edouard
RANGERS (4-3-3) Foderingham; Tavernier, McCrorie, Martin, John; Docherty, Dorrans (Holt 73) Halliday (Windass 40); Candeias (Alves 53), Morelos, Murphy
Not Used: Alnwick, Hodson, Miller, Cummings