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  • Celtic left frustrated after controversial semi-final defeat

    Celtic left frustrated after controversial semi-final defeat

    By: Mark Henderson on 19 Apr, 2015 14:59

  • William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final
    Hampden Park, Glasgow
    Sunday, April 19, 2015

    (Van Dijk 18, Guidetti 103)

    (Tansey pen. 58, Ofore 96, Raven 116)

    TEN-MAN Celtic were left frustrated at a controversial refereeing decision as their Scottish Cup dream was extinguished at Hampden after 3-2 extra-time defeat to Inverness Caley Thistle.

    Virgil van Dijk had put the Hoops in command when his fantastic free-kick found the net in the 18th minute.
    And they should have doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time when Leigh Griffiths’ goal-bound header was prevented from going in by Josh Meekings’ hand. Referee Steven McLean’s failure to award a penalty and dismiss the Inverness player left the Hoops players flabbergasted.

    That decision took on huge significance as Craig Gordon was given his marching orders early in the second half for bringing down Marley Watkins, with Greg Tansey converting the penalty to equalise.

    As the game entered extra-time, Inverness struck first though Edward Ofere but substitute John Guidetti hauled Celtic level with a thunderous set-piece.

    But as the clock ticked down, the Highlanders won it as David Raven swept home from Graeme Shinnie’s cutback.

    Griffiths was restored to the starting XI at the expense of Guidetti after the striker had bagged a treble to crush Kilmarnock on Wednesday night. That was only the change to the team that lined up against the Rugby Park side as Ronny Deila’s men attempted to reach another showpiece and keep their treble dreams alive.

    Prior to facing the Ayrshire outfit, the Hoops had been held by the Highlanders, a timely reminder that the champions would face a rigorous examination this afternoon.

    And it was John Hughes’ side who made the more positive start to proceedings, pressing high up the pitch and looking to take the initiative.

    Adam Matthews was forced into an early foul on Graeme Shinnie, presenting Tansey with the first sight of goal from the resultant free-kick, the midfielder firing over from 30 yards.

    But, after repelling that early assault, Celtic began to exert control and make inroads into the opposition defence.
    A purposeful burst from Forrest down the left created some space for Stefan Johansen to power towards the box and only a last-gasp challenge from Gary Warren blocked his final effort.

    In the 13th minute, Nir Bitton almost opened the scoring in spectacular style as he smashed a first-time shot from 20 yards off the upright with Ryan Esson rooted to the spot.

    The Inverness shot-stopper was quickly called into action again, springing to his left to halt Griffiths’ pile-driver.
    Forrest had been prominent in the opening exchanges, the winger’s explosive pace and movement giving right-back Raven a torrid time.

    And another enterprising run from the Scotland internationalist was the precursor to the Hoops breaking the deadlock.

    After Warren had sent Forrest tumbling to the ground on the edge of the box, referee Steven McLean booked the defender and awarded a free-kick, which van Dijk brilliantly dispatched via the post.

    Emboldened by the Dutchman’s moment of magic, the Bhoys set about their task with renewed enthusiasm. A burst of acceleration from Griffiths took him to the byline but his cutback has no takers and Brown had a stinging shot from distance saved by Esson.

    Still, they weren’t having it completely their own way, with the Caley Jags showing plenty of fighting spirit, and they could have levelled the match had Edward Ofere not missed from close range after a the ball had dropped invitingly for him following a corner.

    The clearer opportunities were falling for Ronny Deila’s side, however, with Johansen forcing Esson into action after collecting Griffith’s lay-off in the box.

    A raking pass over the top from van Dijk nearly put Commons in, before the 31-year-old was denied by a fingertip save from Esson.

    Just before the break, the match burst into life again as controversy reared its head. Moments after Warren headed wide from a corner for Inverness, Johansen was played in following a rapid Celtic breakaway.

    Although the Norwegian’s lofted shot was pushed away by Esson, Griffiths was on hand to header the rebound on target. A goal would have been guaranteed until the intervention of Meekings’ outstretched hand. Inexplicably, the officials missed it and play raged on.

    However, despite their frustrations, Celtic still had an iron-grip on the game as the second half restarted. A crisp, passing move culminated in Commons moving the ball wide to Forrest, who cut inside and saw his effort deflected wide. This all changed in the 55th minute as the Hoops were reduced to 10 men.

    A lightning counter-attack from Inverness left the Celtic defence exposed. Watkins beat Adam Matthews for speed and was brought down by Gordon. Referee Steven McLean pointed to the spot and produced the red card for the shot-stopper.

    Forrest was sacrificed to bring Lukasz Zaluska on but the Polish keeper unable to prevent Tansey levelling the match from the spot.

    Roared on by the Hoops faithful, though, Celtic battled on. Griffiths headed an Izaguirre cross on target from an acute angle, before Johansen’s audacious attempt from 40 yards brought out a save from Esson.  

    At the other end, Watkins fired narrowly wide and Zaluska made a comfortable stop from Tansey’s set-piece as the game became increasingly stretched and tension mounted.

    With neither side able to find a late winner, the match entered extra-time and it was Hoops, who fashioned the first chance as Johansen’s scooped pass was met by substitute Aleksandar Tonev, who volleyed wide.

    Zaluska then made a smart stop from Ryan Christie’s thumping drive but he was left helpless as Ofere handed the Highlanders the lead. Tansey teed-up the forward following a hanging cross from the left and he made no mistake, rifling a shot into the corner.

    However, the ten men rallied in adversity and it only took them seven minutes to cancel that out. Brown was sent sprawling by a combination of Ross Draper and Nick Ross and substitute Guidetti, only on the field a matter of minutes, lashed in the resultant free-kick from 25 yards. Cue bedlam.

    Ross spurned a golden chance for the Caley Jags, hooking a shot over after Zaluska was unable to claim a cross, while Tonev and Guidetti fired over for Celtic.

    But with only three minutes left on the clock, Inverness grabbed the winner as Raven found the net from Shinnie’s low centre. It was a cruel blow for the battling Bhoys, who will now turn their attentions to clinching the title and sealing a domestic double.

     CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon (Zaluska 56); Matthews, Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Commons (Tonev 90), Johansen, Forrest; Griffiths (Guidetti 98)
    Not Used: Ambrose, Scepovic, McGregor, Tierney  

    INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE (4-4-2) Esson; Raven, Warren, Meekings, Shinnie; Christie, Draper, Tansey, Williams (Ross 74); Ofere, Watkins
    Not Used: Mackay, Vincent, Doran, Tremarco, Polworth, Kink

    Website Man of the Match: Virgil van Dijk 

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