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  • Celtic launch successful defence of the League Cup

    Celtic launch successful defence of the League Cup

    By: Martin Dalziel on 23 Sep, 2015 21:47

  • Scottish League Cup
    Third Round
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Wednesday, September 23, 2015

    (Commons 32, Johansen 87)


    GOALS in either half from Kris Commons and Stefan Johansen gave Celtic a hard-earned but deserved victory over Raith Rovers in the third round of the Scottish League Cup.

    The champions were forced to be patient from the first whistle as Ray McKinnon’s side sat deep, looking to hit on the break, but a flash of brilliance from Commons just after 30 minutes finally broke the deadlock and put the Hoops in front.

    The anticipated deluge of goals failed to follow, however, and it took until the final minutes of the game before Johansen’s calm finish on the counter-attack sealed the victory and gave the Bhoys safe passage to the quarter-final.

    Ronny Deila made six changes for the match following the weekend thrashing of Dundee, and the reshuffled line-up struggled to find their rhythm early on. Raith’s 4-1-4-1 formation gave the Bhoys plenty of time on the ball in their own half but chances were difficult to create. 

    The first real effort didn’t come until 13 minutes when some decisive play from Commons picked out Gary Mackay-Steven on the left flank, but his cross-come-shot went past the far post.

    The visitors then had their own first sight of goal when a flick-on from Kevin Cuthbert’s searching goal-kick allowed James Wighton to shoot but Craig Gordon got down well to save.

    The Hoops’ early play was focused down the wings, with Saidy Janko and Kieran Tierney both heavily involved but the visitors’ well-protected backline was difficult for the Celts to break through.

    The Championship side were happy to sit deep, play on the break and look to win free-kicks, which the League Cup holders afforded them on a couple of occasions, but there was no real threat from the Kirkcaldy team.

    That was the same for Celtic for the first 30 minutes until Commons grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and put the Bhoys in front just after the half-hour mark by proving once again that he can create a goal out of nothing.

    The attacker received a pass 25 yards out and turned his man before firing a low, swerving effort into the back of the net beyond Cuthbert.

    It was the goal the game needed but it unfortunately wasn’t the catalyst for more as the visitors stuck to their game-plan and continued to soak up pressure on their 18-yard line until half-time.

    Celtic tried to pick up the pace after the restart and went on the attack straight from the kick-off but Raith’s superior numbers in defence continued to limit the Hoops’ creativity.

    The visitors maintained their game-plan from the first-half, relying on pace on the break to cause threats to the champions but they got a clear chance to draw level from a long throw-in just before the hour mark.

    The Celtic defence failed to clear Jason Thomson’s long throw-in and it sat up kindly for Ross Matthews but he blazed his shot over the bar.

    It was a warning to the Celts, who took heed and made a double switch shortly after with James Forrest and Tom Rogic replacing Commons and Callum McGregor.

    The game opened up slightly as it approached the last 15 minutes after Raith brought on Jon Daly as they made their play to get back into the match.

    Their more ambitious formation created space for Celtic but the visitors were committed to their new approach and threw men forward to support it.

    The Hoops had to weather a rare spell of pressure from Ray McKinnon’s side as they strove to get back into the game and they could have snatched an equaliser with 10 minutes left but Daly hooked his shot over Gordon’s crossbar.

    Celtic then secured the tie with three minutes remaining as Stefan Johansen raced clear of the Raith defence. The midfielder had Ciftci for support but he took the shot on himself and curled a well-placed effort past Cuthbert.

    Ronny Deila then gave youngster Aidan Nesbitt his competitive debut as the clock ticked down but there was little time for the playmaker to have an impact before the final whistle, which blew shortly after, giving Celtic safe passage to the next round of the League Cup.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Janko, Ambrose, Blackett, Tierney; Brown, Johansen; McGregor (Forrest 66), Commons (Rogic 66), Mackay-Steven; Ciftci (Nesbitt 87).
    Not used: Bailly, Lustig, Stokes, Izaguirre

    RAITH ROVERS (4-1-4-1) Cuthbert; Thomson, Toshney, Benedictus, McKeown; Matthews (McCord 79); Anderson (Megginson 75), Davidson (Daly 70), Craigen, Stewart; Wighton.
    Not used: Laidlaw, Petrie, Ellis, Mackie

    Website man of the match: Saidy Janko


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