League Cup Semi-Final
Sunday, October 28, 2018
(Sinclair 53, Forrest 65, Christie 72)
CELTIC swept aside Hearts to book their place in the League Cup final with a 3-0 win against Hearts. A dominant display in the second half saw the Scottish champions storm to what was ultimately a comfortable victory.
Scott Sinclair opened the scoring shortly after the break and James Forrest doubled the lead following a goalkeeping error. Ryan Christie rounded off the scoring with a wonderful strike midway through the second period.
Brendan Rodgers made a total of six changes to the Celtic side that were in European action in midweek.Changes in midfield saw Forrest and Tom Rogic return to the starting XI in place of Lewis Morgan and Ryan Christie.Kristoffer Ajer marked his return from injury in place of the suspended Dedryck Boyata’s and Jozo Simunovic’s injury from midweek meant he was replaced by fellow Croatian Filip Benkovic.
The other two changes saw Mikael Lustig replace Cristian Gamboa and Scott Bain continued between the sticks in the League Cup.
It was a game of two halves as Celtic took their time to get going but once they were up to speed, Hearts could do nothing to keep them at bay.
Neither side were able to get a grip on the game in the early stages and both Scott Bain and Zdenek Zlamal had nothing to do inside the first 10 minutes. Celtic eventually settled into a rhythm and began to pressure Hearts.
Brendan Rodgers was forced into an early substitution when Edoue Kouassi appeared to be struggling with a knock and had to be replaced by Sinclair. The change meant Callum McGregor moved into the centre of midfield where he helped to control the play.
Celtic began to build pressure in the final third and forced Hearts to sit deeper than they had been at the start of the game. Edouard had a glimpse at goal when Forrest initiated a counter-attack in the middle of the park. The winger played a pass out to Edouard who cut inside and tried to shoot across goal but his effort was blocked.
Hearts’ best effort in the first half was an ambitious effort from Olly Lee whose half-volley from 18 yards was comfortably saved by Bain.
Celtic moved up a gear as the half progressed and had Hearts up against the wall but they continued to let themselves down with the final ball. Sinclair forced a great save from the Hearts keeper just before the break when he cut inside and shot across goal, only to be denied by Zlamal who pushed the ball clear.
Christie replaced Olivier Ntcham for the start of the second half, a change which proved crucial in giving Celtic the breakthrough they had been building towards before the break.
It was Celtic who started the game on the front foot and they were rewarded for their efforts with a penalty. Sinclair slipped the ball inside the penalty area for Christie who was brought down by Oliver Bozanic. Sinclair then stepped up and tucked the ball low into the corner to hand Celtic the lead.
Trailing by a goal, Craig Leven’s side were then forced to come out and the game opened up more which, ultimately, played in Celtic’s favour.
The Scottish champions were flying following the goal and they were relentless as they upped the tempo in the pursuit of a second goal. The main avenue of attack was down the left flank where Kieran Tierney and Sinclair troubled Hearts with good deliveries into the box. Edouard got on the end of a whipped cross into the box from Tierney but he couldn’t keep his header down.
Celtic threatened through the centre of the pitch too and the Hearts’ keeper was kept on his toes as Rogic tested him with a shot form distance. Some poor goalkeeping from Zlamal lead to Celtic’s second goal though. He fumbled a shot from Christie from the edge of the area and Forrest was quickest to react as he tapped the ball into the net.
The gulf in class became increasingly clear as the game progressed and the Hoops dominated the Edinburgh side with quick, fluid attacking football.
The game was put beyond any doubt with the third goal which came from a wonderful shot form Christie on the edge of the penalty area. The ball fell to him and the 23-year-old fired the ball into the top corner with an expertly taken left-footed shot.
Zlamal made up for his earlier blunder with some superb goalkeeping in the remainder of the game which ensured the score-line did not accurately reflect Celtic’s dominance in the second half.
Forrest was denied a second goal by a brilliant save 10 minutes form the end and the keeper readjusted well to deny Christie’s follow-up effort which he palmed on to the post. A game drew to an end with a flurry of Celtic chances as Edouard and Sinclair came close to increasing their lead.
CELTIC: Bain, Tierney, Benkovic, Ajer (Hendry 79), Lustig; Kouassi (Sinclair 26), Ntcham (Christie 45), Rogic, McGregor, Forrest, Edouard.
Not Used: Gordon, Ralston, Hayes, Morgan.
HEARTS: Zlamal: Smith, Dunne, Haring, Bozanic (Morrison 70); Lee (Clare 75), Djoum, Mitchell, Naismith (Amankwaa 8); MacLean, Dikamona
Not Used: Doyle, Hughes, Garuccio, Cochrane