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  • Dominant Celts book semi-final spot

    Dominant Celts book semi-final spot

    By: Mark Henderson on 06 Mar, 2016 13:56

  • Scottish Cup Quarter-Final
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Sunday, March 6, 2016

    (Griffiths 14, Mackay-Steven 25, McGregor 35)


    A DOMINANT first-half display saw Celtic brush aside Greenock Morton 3-0 in Paradise and book their spot in the Scottish Cup semi-finals.

    Leigh Griffiths opened the scoring with his 34th goal of the season, before the lively Gary-Mackay-Steven doubled the advantage from Kieran Tierney’s cross.

    And ten minutes later, Callum McGregor sealed the champions’ passage to the last four of the competition with an exquisite finish from the edge of the box.

    Celtic struck the woodwork twice in the second period, with Patrick Roberts impressing again after coming off the bench.

    But, despite not finding further reward, Ronny Deila would be satisfied at progressing in the competition and returning to winning ways after successive draws with Hamilton and Dundee.

    The manager had made four changes to his team following Wednesday’s goal-less draw with Dundee. Opting for a 4-3-3 formation, the manager moved birthday Bhoy Charlie Mulgrew into central defence at the expense of Dedryck Boyata, while Stefan Johansen and McGregor also returned to partner Scott Brown in midfield.

    Kris Commons, who came on as a late substitute in the mid-week stalemate, started on the right of the front three, with Griffiths deployed in his usual central role and Mackay-Steven completing the changes for the Celts on the left. Roberts, Tom Rogic and Stuart Armstrong were the other players to drop out but were named on the bench.

    After a scrappy start to proceedings, the Hoops fashioned the first opportunity in the sixth minute. Mackay-Steven robbed Lee Kilday off possession and drove into the box but he elected to try and pick out Griffiths in the middle instead of pulling the trigger and Kilday managed to get back and avert the danger.  

    The winger looked the most likely outlet for the Hoops in the opening exchanges and after he had evaded the clutches of Kilday again his low cutback was just behind the onrushing Griffiths.

    After Morton had enjoyed a short spell of pressure, with Craig Gordon saving comfortably from an angled effort from Ross Forbes, Celtic resumed the offensive and made the breakthrough.

    Mackay-Steven was the provider. His delivery from the left was missed by defender Thomas O’Ware and Griffiths buried a right-footed shot under Derek Gaston at the back post.

    That sparked further waves of attacks from the home side, with McGregor, Scott Brown and Griffiths having shots blocked by an increasingly stretched away defence.

    Spiritedly, Morton responded with a powerful long-range drive from Joe McKee which Gordon saved comfortably and it wasn’t long before the champions threatened again as O’Ware made a last-ditch block to thwart Commons in the box. From McGregor’s resultant corner, Mikael Lustig glanced over.

    Gaston then had to make an excellent save from Griffiths after the striker had fastened onto Johansen’s precise pass but the goalkeeper could do nothing moments later as Mackay-Steven doubled the  advantage.

    Tierney hit the byline and hit low cross picked out the former Dundee United man, who had the simple task of firing home from close range.

    At the other end, Gordon had to react sharply to save from Stefan McCluskey’s shot that came through a ruck of bodies.

    However, with Celtic’s confidence growing, Jim Duffy’s side were struggling to stem the tide as Ronny Deila’s side zipped the ball around with pace and purpose.

    Tierney had a shot saved, Mulgrew struck the wall with a free-kick and Commons headed wide from Tierney’s cross as the chances continued to mount.

    In the 35th minute, Morton’s resistance was broken again. McGregor was afforded space to burst towards the box and he finished with aplomb from 20 yards, curing a sumptuous shot beyond Gaston.

    The one-way traffic continued as half-time approached - Griffiths had a shot blocked by O’Hare and Mackay-Steven shot wide after being found by Tierney.

    Former Celt Michael Miller saw yellow for pulling back McGregor on the edge of the box as Morton became more desperate in their attempts to halt the onslaught.

    Johansen found the wall from the free-kick, and Miller was extremely fortunate not to receive further punishment 60 seconds from referee Willie Collum, having caught Johansen with a straight leg which left the Norwegian prone on the ground and in need of treatment after the half-time whistle.

    Worryingly, the Celtic midfielder was unable to reappear for the restart, with Colin Kazim-Richards taking his place.

    Despite the change, the Hoops remained in control though their tempo had dipped somewhat from the first period, and aside from a header from Lustig that was saved by Gaston there was a dearth of meaningful opportunities.

    The introduction of Patrick Roberts on the hour mark injected fresh impetus into the Celtic attack. A wonderful solo run from the 19-year-old saw him leave several opponents for dead before striking the post.

    And Roberts was also involved in the move that saw Commons find Kazim-Richards with a defence-splitting pass, the striker firing into the side-netting.

    Morton had carried more threat in the second half and Gordon had to make a tremendous point-blank save from Denny Johnstone following a corner, Celtic eventually clearing the ball from the ensuing melee.

    Mackay-Steven thundered a shot off the underside of the bar, after more good work from Roberts, and Kazim-Richards came close on two occasions as the Bhoys comfortably saw out the closing stages to seal their spot in the semi-finals.

    CELTIC (4-3-3) Gordon; Lustig, Sviatchenko, Mulgrew, Tierney; McGregor, Brown, Johansen (Kazim-Richards 46); Commons (Armstrong 73), Griffiths (Roberts 60), Mackay-Steven
    Not Used: Bailly, Rogic, Ambrose, Forrest, Armstrong

    GREENOCK MORTON (3-5-2) Gaston; Kilday, O’Ware, Lamie; McCluskey (Gasparatto 76) McKee, Miller (Barr 51) Forbes, Russell; Johnstone (Quitongo 90),McManus
    Not Used: McGowan, MacDonald, Scullion, Tennan

    Website Man of the Match: Gary Mackay-Steven

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