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  • Treble dream remains alive as dominant Celtic book return to Hampden

    Treble dream remains alive as dominant Celtic book return to Hampden

    By: Mark Henderson on 18 Mar, 2015 21:52

  • Scottish Cup quarter-final
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Wednesday, March 18, 2015

    (Denayer 17, Griffiths 57, Commons 79, van Dijk 90+1)


    CELTIC cruised into the Scottish Cup last four and kept their treble dreams alive after a dominant 4-0 victory over Dundee United in Paradise.

    Jason Denayer deservedly headed the Hoops in front, before Leigh Griffiths doubled the advantage 12 minutes into the second half.

    The Scottish Cup quarter-final tie was effectively over once Kris Commons coolly added a third in the closing stages, but the competitive edge continued until the clock ticked down as first Anthony Stokes and then Ryan McGowan were dismissed.

    The champions finished with a flourish, though, as Virgil van Dijk rolled home from Denayer’s perfect pass at the death to set up a semi-final meeting with Inverness Caley Thistle.   

    Hampden hero James Forrest returned to the Celtic starting line-up in the sole change from the team that defeated the Terrors in Sunday’s League Cup final.

    The winger, who bagged the Hoops’ second goal in the 2-0 triumph, replaced the suspended Stefan Johansen in the side, with Commons moving inside to the fill the void left by the Norwegian.

    United had been reduced to 10 men at the National Stadium and they could have suffered the same fate within 60 seconds as goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak sent Griffiths sprawling outside the box after he had fastened onto a precise pass. The shot-stopper was shown a yellow card, with the resultant free-kick curled wide by Commons via the aid of a deflection.

    It was a sign of things of things to come as the champions poured forward and pressed the visitors relentlessly, denying them any platform to build forward momentum.

    Celtic were finding plenty of joy down the flanks, earning a raft of corners, but it was from a slick move through the middle that Commons had the first effort on goal in the sixth minute, the attacker sending a shot over after a lovely first touch had allowed him to speed towards the box.

    Griffiths then brought out a comfortable save from Cierzniak after acrobatically connecting to Stokes’ cross as the pressure continued to mount.

    In the 17th minute, Celtic made the breakthrough. Butcher sent Commons tumbling as he broke forward and when Stokes sent the free-kick into the mix, Denayer rose highest to send a looping header into the net.

    Forrest and Griffiths had attempts in quick succession as confident and purposeful Celtic looked to inflict further punishment.

    Griffiths lashed another shot over from 25 yards after linking up with Commons. And when the Tannadice side did venture forward, they were susceptible to the lightning counter-attacks, with one sweeping move culminating in Forrest’s drive being blocked by John Rankin.

    Van Dijk headed over from a corner and only a last-gasp challenge thwarted Griffiths from playing in Nir Bitton as Celtic dominance continued unabated.

    Forrest’s explosive speed was proving a particular problem for Rankin, deployed in a more unfamiliar left-back position.

    And after the winger had raced past the former Hibernian player, his cross forced a backpedalling Cierzniak to tip the ball on to the bar. Moments later, Griffiths had a header blocked by Jaroslaw Fojut.

    Nadir Ciftci’s speculative effort from 25 yards, which had drawn a comfortable save from Craig Gordon, had been United’s only effort of note as half-time approached.

    Ryan McGowan’s cutback did cause some flutters in the 39th minute but Gordon managed to divert the danger clear, with Efe Ambrose completing the clearance.

    But it was the Bhoys who finished the half on top, with Bitton almost capitalising on Cierzniak’s slack clearance and Commons coming close with a couple of efforts.

    That pattern continued after the restart as Forrest reached the byline and found Commons, who was crowded out as he tried to pull the trigger.

    United then had their best spell of the match, throwing in a number of crosses into the mix, but Ronny Deila’s men held firm and then set about adding to their tally.

    And shortly after Stokes has blasted wide from 30 yards, they broke United’s resistance again. Scott Brown’s wonderful pass was met first-time by Griffiths, whose controlled finish gave Cierzniak no chance.

    Van Dijk and Stokes threatened, while the impressive Forrest continued to torment the visitors with his pace and trickery.

    And it was no surprise when goal number three arrived as Commons collected a return pass from substitute John Guidetti and lofted the ball beyond Cierzniak.

    Tempers frayed in the closing stages as Stokes saw red after an altercation with Paul Paton, before Ryan McGowan also received his marching orders for a reckless lunge on Liam Henderson.

    Still, it couldn’t put a dampener on a fantastic night for the Hoops, and there was still time for van Dijk to round off the scoring, applying the finish after being set-up by his defensive partner Denayer.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Ambrose (Fisher 72), Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Forrest, Commons (Henderson 80) Stokes; Griffiths (Guidetti 58)
    Not Used: Zaluska, Scepovic, Wakaso, McGrgeor

    DUNDEE UNITED (4-4-2) Cierzniak; McGowan, Fojut, Morris, Rankin; Spittal (Connolly 74), Paton, Butcher, Erskine (Anier 70); Dow (Telfer 70) Ciftci
    Not Used: Szromnik, Souttar, Smith, Spark

    Website Man of the Match: James Forrest


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