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  • Celtic fight back to reach Scottish Cup semi-finals

    Celtic fight back to reach Scottish Cup semi-finals

    By: Mark Henderson on 05 Mar, 2017 14:35

  • William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-finals
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Sunday, March 5, 2017

    (Lustig 58, Sinclair 59, Dembele 68, Griffiths 78)

    ST MIRREN...1
    (Davis 13)

    CELTIC staged a superb second-half fightback to put a spirited St Mirren side to the sword and book their place in the Scottish Cup semi-finals.

    The Hoops failed to find their normal fluency in the first half and trailed to Harry Davis’ goal at the interval but they rallied after the break to turn the match around

    Mikael Lustig and Scott Sinclair scored twice in the space of 60 seconds to put the Hoops ahead before the hour-mark.

    And Moussa Dembele and substitute Leigh Griffiths sealed the victory in the closing stages to book their spot in the draw for the last four of the competition and extend their unbeaten domestic run this season to 34 matches.

    Brendan Rodgers had kept faith with the same team that dispatched Inverness Caley Thistle so impressively on Wednesday night which extended the champions’ advantage at the top of the table to 27 points.

    The in-form Dembele, who had bagged a brace in the Highlands, again led the line, with Gary Mackay-Steven and Sinclair providing close support from the flanks.

    There was a poignant start to proceedings as Paradise remembered Celtic legend Tommy Gemmell, who sadly passed away on Thursday at the age of 73, with an impeccably observed minute’s silence.

    The Lisbon Lion won three Scottish Cups during his illustrious career in the Hoops and the current Celtic team showed their intent to go all the way in the competition this season as they made a brisk start to the match.

    In the third minute, Mackay-Steven dispossessed Stelios Demetriou and raced into the box before the cutting the ball back for Stuart Armstrong, whose low shot was saved by Billy O’Brien

    Through the pace of Sinclair, Dembele and Mackay-Steven, the Hoops were looking a real threat when they drove at the Buddies’ backline, and Mackay Steven was unable to capitalise when Armstrong played him in down the inside-right channel.

    But Celtic were stunned in the 13th minute when the Championship club opened the scoring. Following a quickly-taken free-kick, Cameron Smith’s deep cross was nodded back across goal by John Sutton and Harry Davis was left unmarked in the middle to apply the simple finish.

    It was the first goal the Hoops had conceded in four games and they took some time to rediscover their rhythm. On the half-hour mark, they sparked into life again. Mackay-Steven broke down the right and picked out Sinclair in the box. He teed-up Scott Brown and the captain’s left-foot shot flew wide of the far post.

    Celtic then looked to be denied a strong penalty claim when a high boot from Demetriou caught Mackay-Steven in the face as he attempted to reach a loose ball following a corner, referee Steven McLean unmoved by the protests.  

    Brendan Rodgers’ side were growing in ascendency again as half-time approached and they should have been level at the break, but Dembele could only hold his hands in frustration after scuffing a shot inches past the post.

    Patrick Roberts, back in the squad after a month on the treatment table, replaced Mackay-Steven at the interval as the home side started the second half with real urgency, with Dembele firing wide after a driven cross from Mikael Lustig.

    The Paisley side were playing with plenty of spirit, however, and they emerged from their defensive shell to create a flurry of chances at the other end.

    First, Sutton had a shot deflected over after Dedryck Boyata’s clearance and fell to him in the box, and then Dembele’s attemped clearance from Mallon’s low free-kick cannoned off the underside of the bar, with Davis unable to divert the rebound home from an acute angle.

    Those misses proved costly as Celtic turned the game around in the space of 60 seconds. After Demetriou had fouled substitute Griffiths on the right, Roberts floated in the free-kick and Lustig rose highest to glance a header into the far corner.  

    When St Mirren tried to launch an attack straight from the restart, Celtic won back possession and countered. Griffiths drilled a pass out to Sinclair on the left and the wide-man burst into the box and curled an exquisite finish into the far corner.

    It was all Celtic now and only a last-ditch challenge from Gary Irvine denied Sinclair hitting the target again after Griffiths had picked him out again from the left.

    Midway through the half, Brendan Rodgers side effectively put the result beyond doubt with a wonderfully-worked goal. Sinclair raced into the box to collect a return pass from Roberts and then supplied Dembele in the middle who made no mistake.  

    The lively Lewis Morgan replied for Jack Ross’ side with a curling shot that flew wide but the Bhoys were now playing some stylish, free-flowing football, and after a series of first-time passes, Dembele was close to his second when he struck the outside of the post.

    Goal number four arrived 12 minutes from time through a trademark strike from Griffiths. The hit-man received the ball 25 yards of goal and lashed a powerful shot beyond O’Brien.

    Kouassi Eboue came off the bench to make his Celtic bow, and Boyata and Griffiths both had goals disallowed in the final 10 minutes as the Hoops finished on top and kept their ambitions of a domestic clean sweep alive.

     CELTIC (4-3-3) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Brown, Bitton (Griffiths 54), Armstrong (Kouassi 77); Mackay-Steven (Roberts 46), Dembele, Sinclair
    Not Used: De Vries, Simunovic, Gamboa, McGregor

    ST MIRREN (4-4-1-1) O’Brien; Irvine, Davis, MacKenzie (Baird 75) Demetriou; Magennis (Storie 84), McGinn, Mallon, Morgan; Smith; Sutton (Loy 70)
    Not Used: Langfield, Webster, Fjelde, O’Keefe

    Website Man of the Match: Scott Brown 

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