Celtic 2-0 Alloa: James Forrest and Moussa Dembele put Hoops into Betfred Cup semi-final
Late goals from James Forrest and Moussa Dembele took Celtic past Alloa and into the Betfred Cup semi-final but the Hoops made hard work of overcoming the League One outfit 2-0 at Parkhead
A goalless first half was characterised mostly by poor finishing from the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders while returning Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon was perhaps fortunate to only get a yellow card for his high challenge on Wasps striker Greig Spence outside the box.
Numerous attempts on the visiting goal also went high or wide after the break with Neil Parry racking up saves until Forrest beat him in the 83rd minute with a left-footed drive from the edge of the box. Dembele added a second in the 90th minute.
It was not the most convincing of performance from Brendan Rodgers' side but Celtic join Rangers and Championship side Morton in the semi-final draw which will take place after the Aberdeen versus St Johnstone quarter-final on Thursday night.
Rodgers, aware of Celtic's relentless schedule, made five changes to the side which started the 2-2 draw at Inverness on Sunday.
Defender Jozo Simunovic made his first start of the season, with Gordon back in goal and defender Kolo Toure and midfielders Stuart Armstrong and Forrest also coming in against the unchanged visitors.
Parry made early stops from midfielder Tom Rogic and left-back Kieran Tierney and a very good close-range save from Dembele but it was far from a Celtic blitzkrieg.
The Hoops had plenty of efforts on goal but the best was Tierney's dipping drive from 20 yards in the 28th minute which rattled the crossbar.
The visitors' forays were sporadic.
Gordon had earlier parried a long-distance effort from former Celt Spence and then earned a booking from referee Alan Muir just before the break when he rushed from his box to clatter the Alloa striker with a reckless challenge which might have earned a red from another official.
The goalkeeper was perhaps too keen to find some action but moments later he had to move smartly to clutch a Ben Gordon header from a Calum Waters free-kick.
Scott Sinclair replaced Patrick Roberts for the start of the second half and he fired wide from 20 yards within minutes before lofting another attempt.
Just before the hour mark Parry blocked a dink from Dembele before Celtic skipper Scott Brown headed a Sinclair corner past the post.
Rogic was booked in the 66th for simulation just inside the box after a challenge by veteran midfielder Jim Goodwin.
Attacker Ryan Christie replaced Simunovic as Rodgers shuffled the pack but the tension slowly grew along with Alloa hope.
Parry thwarted Forrest twice before the Scotland winger eventually beat the goalkeeper from the edge of the box after drifting in from the right, allowing the Hoops fans to relax and enjoy Dembele's powerful drive high into the net in the last minute.
Belfast Telegraph Digital