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  • Goal-hero Griffiths sends Hoops to League Cup semi-final

    Goal-hero Griffiths sends Hoops to League Cup semi-final

    By: Laith Al Naeme on 26 Sep, 2018 21:51

  • Betfred League Cup quarter-final
    McDiarmid Park, Perth
    Wednesday, September 26, 2018


    (Griffiths 83)

    LEIGH Griffiths was the difference again as Celtic returned to winning ways tonight at McDiarmid Park to progress to the semi-final of the League Cup. 

    There were six changes to the Celtic side which lost at Rugby Park last Sunday. Kristoffer Ajer returned to partner Dedryck Boyata in central defence, while Olivier Ntcham was back in the team following his one-game suspension. Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard also came back into the starting XI.

    And Scott Bain made his second start of the season, having played against Partick Thistle in the previous round of the League Cup.

    It was the Hoops who threatened first in the eighth minute, Forrest found himself in plenty of space down the right but his accurate pass to Ntcham resulted in a shot that was blocked by the Saints defence.

    The next real chance of the match fell to the hosts 10 minutes later as David Wotherspoon teed up Liam Craig from a set-piece, but the attacker’s curling effort was easily held by Bain. 

    As the champions dominated possession in the opening half an hour, Griffiths had a huge chance to open the scoring on the half-hour mark. He was  found at the back post by Edouard but his header from close-range was saved by Zander Clark. 

    Brendan Rodgers was forced into an early substitution moments later as Ajer was forced off with an injury, to be replaced by Jack Hendry. 

    Then, on the stroke of half-time, the biggest chance of the half came Celtic's way. McGregor was put clear through on goal following a perfectly-weighted pass from Ntcham but the Hoops midfielder dragged his shot narrowly wide. 

    Celtic played with real intent from the restart and created a number of opportunities in the first 10 minutes of the second-half. McGregor and Ntcham in the middle of the park worked together to produce two attacks in quick succession, but Clark did well to tip the shots around the post in both occasions.

    Searching for the opening goal of the night, the Hoops began to crank through the gears. Boyata headed just over the bar from a corner in the 52nd minute, and two minutes later Griffiths raced through on goal before striking wide from an angle.

    At the other end, Bain had to be alert to deny Blair Alston on the counter-attack. But from a Celtic breakaway, McGregor was stopped again in tremendous fashion. The midfielder picked up the ball outside the area and his effort looked goal-bound if it wasn’t for the heroics of the Saints stopper. 

    Just after the 70th minute mark, Griffiths had another massive chance to give the Celts the lead. The striker did brilliantly to bring down the ball at the edge of the box on his chest, but the Scotland internationalist couldn’t convert. 

    But, in the 83rd minute, the Hoops were rewarded for their dominance. Kieran Tierney lofted a cross in to Forrest, his powerful header bounced off a Saints defender and was tucked away into the net by Griffiths. 

    The goal stung the Perth side into action but the Celtic defence diverted any danger away in the final minutes. The night ended on a sour note for the Hoops when they were reduced to 10 men in stoppage time as Dedryck Boyata received a red card for dissent. 

    However, the Hoops held on to their lead at McDiarmid Park for a place in the League Cup semi-final where they’ll battle it out with Hearts at Hampden for a spot in the final.

    ST JOHNSTONE: Clark; Foster, Tanser, Shaughnessy, Kerr; Callachan, Alston, Craig, Wotherspoon; Wright (Swanson 66), Watt (Kane 46).
    Subs: Mitchell, Anderson, McMillan, Nydam, Kennedy.

    CELTIC: Bain; Lustig, Boyata, Ajer (33), Tierney; Brown, Ntcham, McGregor (Rogic 75); Forrest, Edouard (Morgan 65), Griffiths.
    Subs: Gordon, Sinclair, Christie, Mulumbu.


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