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  • Magic from Moussa seals Celtic's cup final berth

    Magic from Moussa seals Celtic's cup final berth

    By: Martin Dalziel on 23 Oct, 2016 16:13

  • Scottish League Cup semi-final
    Hampden Park, Glasgow
    Sunday October 23, 2016

    (Dembele 87)


    MOUSSA Dembele’s cultured close-range finish in the dying minutes of the Glasgow derby League Cup semi-final gave Celtic a deserved 1-0 win over Rangers and booked Brendan Rodgers’ side’s place in the first final of the season.

    After almost 45 minutes of relentless pressure in the second-half, the Hoops’ determination and perseverance finally paid off with three minutes left on the clock when the young Frenchman applied a deft finish to substitute Leigh Griffiths’ cut-back.

    The goal was a piece of individual brilliance from Dembele but capped off true team performance from the Celts on a day where their belief in attacking football was eventually rewarded with a berth in the final against Aberdeen at the end of November.

    The match had all the usual fervour, colour and sound of a Glasgow derby and started with Celtic coming out the blocks at full speed, looking to influence proceedings early on with their quick passing style and width down the flanks. An early through ball from Nir Bitton to Kieran Tierney into the left channel indicated the Hoops’ game plan but the Ibrox side had their own share of possession on the wings as both sides battled for supremacy

    Brendan Rodgers’ team played much of the opening 15 minutes on the counter-attack but that approach still provided dividends, with Tom Rogic influential in midfield, springing the Bhoys’ moves forward.

    The Australian was unlucky to see an early shot deflected out for a corner before the first big decision of the match was made when Rangers’ Barrie McKay was booked for a dive in the box under a challenge from Jozo Simunovic, Celtic’s only change for the match from their mid-week European clash.

    Scott Sinclair could have then opened the scoring for the Hoops moments later when a wonderful through pass from Moussa Dembele sent the winger scarpering into the box unmarked but Matt Gilks saved well with his legs.

    Gilks then almost gave the opener away when his poor touch in the six yard box gifted the ball to Rogic but the midfielder took a touch with his right before shooting, allowing Gilks to get back on his feet and make the save.

    Rangers gradually grew more into the game but rarely threatened the Celtic penalty area. Rogic meanwhile was a constant threat with his ability to take the ball on the turn regularly bamboozling the Ibrox side’s midfield and he was unfortunate with another curling effort just before the half hour mark which crept past the post after another excellent sprint forward.

    As the game approached half-time Celtic began to dominate possession and pepper the Rangers penalty area with crosses and passes, with Scott Brown breaking up any bid to counter-attack from the Ibrox side. The jittery Rangers rearguard held on, however, with the teams locked in a goalless stalemate at the interval.

    All that looked to have changed within minutes of the restart when Erik Sviatchenko placed a header into the bottom corner after Sinclair’s pinpoint cross but he was adjudged to have fouled his marker and the effort was cancelled out.

    Sinclair was then denied by Gilks again after gathering a one-two with Rogic as the Bhoys roared forward on wave after wave of attack.

    Rangers responded with a piercing counter-attack that saw Simunovic block Jason Holt’s goal-bound shot brilliantly before Craig Gordon did well to gather a swerving effort from McKay that spun through a mass of bodies in the Celtic penalty area.

    Stuart Armstrong’s introduction in place of Bitton after 60 minutes gave Rogic more licence to roam around the Rangers penalty box while also injecting more pace into the Hoops central midfield area as the Celts sought a way to break the deadlock.

    The Bhoys again went agonisingly close to doing that again when Brown won a free-kick 20 yards out for his team but Sinclair’s curling set-piece smashed the cross bar and fell kindly for Gilks to gather.

    More attacking options were added to the Celts frontline when Leigh Griffiths came on for Rogic as the one-way traffic continued. The Edinburgh man got straight into the action, cutting back a low cross into the Rangers box from the right but there were no takers.

    Celtic continued to spurn chances as Forrest and Dembele sent efforts wide of goal as time ebbed away and Rangers retreated further back but the fresh legs of Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner forced the Hoops to be cautious at the back as they relentlessly threw bodies forward.

    The legs of Gilks again thwarted the Bhoys as Armstrong’s angled shot was deflected away but the pressure eventually paid off for the Scottish champions when a moment of pure class from Dembele shattered Rangers’ resistance with three minutes left.

    An arching long pass was cannoned forward from the Hoops defence to the feet of Griffiths and the striker made a direct run for the box. Dembele also powered into the area and he was expertly picked out by Griffiths’ curled cut-back, which the Frenchman finished with aplomb, stroking the ball through the legs of Gilks with the instep of his trailing leg as he ran towards the front post.

    It was an exquisite finish from the striker and gave Celtic a deserved lead that was enough to book their place in the final against Aberdeen on Sunday November 27.

    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,

    Website man of the match: Moussa Dembele

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