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  • Late strikes send Hoops into League Cup semi-finals

    Late strikes send Hoops into League Cup semi-finals

    By: Martin Dalziel on 28 Oct, 2015 21:42

  • Scottish League Cup quarter-final
    Tynecastle, Edinburgh
    Wednesday, October 28, 2015

    HEARTS...1
    (Djoum 90+2)

    CELTIC...2
    (Griffiths 70, Rogic 80)

    LATE strikes from Leigh Griffiths and Tom Rogic sent Celtic into the semi-finals of the Scottish League Cup after they overcame Hearts 2-1 at Tynecastle.

    The Bhoys had been frustrated for much of the game with the home side soaking up waves of pressure and playing on the counter-attack, but Edinburgh-born hit-man Griffiths finally broke the deadlock with 20 minutes left with a wonderful solo run and finish in the box.

    Robbie Neilson’s side came forward as they desperately tried to claw their way back into the game, but that opened up more space for the Celts and they doubled their advantage 10 minutes later when Griffiths squeezed the ball under Neil Alexander from a tight angle, allowing Rogic to deftly flick it over the line and seal the victory.

    A late header from Arnaud Djoum gave Hearts hope at the death but it was too little too late for the home side, and the Celts will now go into Monday’s draw where they will discover their opponents in the final four.

    Celtic made three changes to the starting XI for the trip to the capital, with Mikael Lustig, Emilio Izaguirre and Nir Bitton all returning to the team in place of Efe Ambrose, Kieran Tierney and Gary Mackay-Steven.

    However, captain Scott Brown pulled up during the warm-up and was replaced in the starting XI before kick-off by James Forrest. Gary Mackay-Steven also pulled out of the squad following the warm-up and was replaced on the bench by Callum McGregor, with Tyler Blackett stepping in to fill the spot left by Forrest.

    The match was preceded by heavy rainstorms but the weather improved before kick-off, making the surface perfectly zippy for Celtic’s quick passing style.

    Both teams started brightly, with Juanma Delgado and Osman Sow testing the Celtic backline early on with some good combination play but the Hoops soon began to settle and take control.

    Forrest’s inclusion gave the Bhoys an injection of pace down the right and he went close with a shot from distance from Celtic’s first corner but the referee blew for an infringement on the line.

    Stuart Armstrong was lively on the other wing, harrying Blazej Augustyn and winning a spate of early corners but the Hoops couldn’t carve out a goal-scoring chance from the attacker’s good play.

    The match settled into a steady rhythm midway through the first-half with the Celts largely in control of the ball but resilient defending from the home side limited them chances going forward.

    Robbie Neilson’s side were solid at the back, soaking up the Celtic pressure before springing their own attacks on the counter.

    The more bodies the Hoops threw forward to support their attacks the more space was left at the back for Hearts forwards to exploit on the counter attack, with Billy King and Sam Nicholson the main architects for the home team on the break.

    The best chance of the half for the Bhoys came just before half-time when a flash of quick passing allowed Forrest to fire in a low cross from the right but neither Armstrong or Kris Commons could get on the end of the delivery and the teams went in at the break level.

    Play retained the look of the first-half after the interval with Celtic controlling possession and Hearts looking dangerous on the break.

    The Bhoys switched their approach by mixing their short passing build-up play with long balls up to Griffiths but the close marking of the towering Hearts defence made it difficult for the striker to win the aerial battles.

    Ronny Deila then replaced Forrest with Tom Rogic and the Australian got straight into the action, weaving his way through the Hearts defence but his shot screwed wide of the goal.

    Hearts then thought they had taken the lead when the ball was poked over the line by Sow from Nicholson’s deep free-kick but the offside flag was rightly raised and the Celts breathed a sigh of relief.

    That scare sparked the Hoops back into life and they came forward in waves, with Griffiths and Commons both having shots at goal before McGhee did well to clear Armstrong’s low cross off the line after Alexander failed to gather it.

    The pressure finally paid off for the Bhoys moments later, however, when a brilliant solo run and finish from Griffiths broke the deadlock.

    The striker picked up the ball 30 yards out and drove at goal, jinking in and out of two challenges before opening his body up inside the area and curling a composed shot beyond Alexander.

    The striker then helped the Bhoys double their lead 10 minutes later when he gathered the ball in the right of the box and squeezed it under Alexander, allowing Rogic to flick it over the line unmarked and seal the victory.

    Lustig could have added further to the lead when he did well to meet a free-kick from the left but sent his header wide of goal.

    Substitute Djoum found the back of the net for the home side in added time with a powerful header in the box but it was not enough to get the Jambos back into the game and Celtic headed back to Glasgow as victors and into Monday’s draw for the last four.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Simunovic, Izaguirre; Bitton, Johansen; Forrest (Rogic 59), Commons, Armstrong; Griffiths (Ciftci 80)

    Not used: Bailly, Ambrose, Tierney, Blackett, McGregor

    HEARTS (4-4-2) Alexander; Paterson, Augustyn, Rossi, McGhee; Nicholson, Buaben (Djoum 79), Gomis, King (Walker 52); Sow, Juanma (Reilly 87)

    Not used: Hamilton, Swanson, Smith, Zanatta

    Website man of the match: Leigh Griffiths

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