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Celtic 2-1 Aberdeen: Hoops celebrate unbeaten domestic treble

Substitute Tom Rogic's sensational injury-time winner gave Celtic a 2-1 William Hill Scottish Cup final success over Aberdeen and clinched a historic treble for the Hoops.

In an open and thrilling encounter at Hampden Park, winger Jonny Hayes volleyed the Dons into the lead in the ninth minute only for Parkhead midfielder Stuart Armstrong to level two minutes later.

Celtic grew stronger as the second half went on and in the first minute of three added on by referee Bobby Madden, Rogic - on in the first half for Kieran Tierney - fired in a close-range drive to ensure that Brendan Rodgers' side completed the whole domestic season unbeaten with the club's first treble since 2001.

It was the Dons' sixth defeat of the season to Celtic but they more than played their part in a compelling match, only to find again that the Parkhead club this season are irresistible.

Rodgers, who joined the club last summer, becomes the third Parkhead boss to do the clean sweep following Jock Stein, twice, and Martin O'Neill.

It was a fitting achievement in the week that Celtic celebrated 50 years since becoming the first British club to win the European Cup.

As excitement levels grew around Parkhead in the build-up to the final, Rodgers revealed that Moussa Dembele had recovered from the hamstring injury that had kept him out for a month.

In the event, the 20-year-old French striker started on the bench with Leigh Griffiths leading the line.

For his part, Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes had raised eyebrows earlier in the week by stripping outward-bound midfielder Ryan Jack of the captaincy, with Graeme Shinnie leading the team out.

Jack, though, was given a starting berth for the showpiece finale which was preceded by a minute's silence in tribute to those affected by the Manchester bombing attack.

The heavy burst of rain before the game slickened the surface and helped in a frantic start to the match.

The Pittodrie men drew first blood when Niall McGinn's corner to the back post found Hayes, who had escaped Griffiths, and his low volley flew into the net with Celtic defender Tierney unable to keep it out.

However, the Hoops fought back immediately and two minutes later Armstrong took a Callum McGregor pass outside the box and fired a low drive past Dons keeper Joe Lewis.

Midway through the first half, Tierney required lengthy treatment for a facial injury after a challenge by Aberdeen striker Jayden Stockley near the touchline - it looked as if an arm was used - and had to be replaced by Rogic with McGregor dropping to left-back.

The change disrupted Celtic and as Aberdeen rallied, Hoops keeper Craig Gordon saved efforts from McGinn, Jack and Stockley.

But Celtic should have taken the lead deep into five minutes added for Tierney's injury when Griffiths fired in a cross from the left but Scott Sinclair knocked over from just a few yards out.

The second half also started at pace as Griffiths' deflected shot on the break missed the far post by inches before Lewis blocked a Sinclair shot on the turn from close range.

At the other end, Hayes robbed McGregor on the touchline to drive through on goal but his pass to McLean was behind the midfielder and a great chance was lost.

Lewis parried an angled drive from Armstrong just after the hour mark and then Aberdeen escaped when a Patrick Roberts drive from 20 yards came off the outside of the post.

Back came the rain, cascading again but failing to dampen the growing excitement and tension.

Gordon produced a wonderful save at full stretch, pushing Shinnie's 25-yard drive past the post, the Hoops defending the corner.

As play raced to and fro, Lewis made crucial saves from Griffiths and then Sinclair.

Aberdeen were visibly tiring and the champions began to swarm around their box and in added time Rogic sealed the win, and the treble, with an angled drive after dancing into the Dons box and the green and white half of the stadium exploded in joy.

Match preview

Rodgers confident Celtic players will hold their nerve to clinch treble

By Graham Luney

Brendan Rodgers has backed his Celtic players to hold their nerve and celebrate an astonishing domestic treble today.

A William Hill Scottish Cup final victory over Aberdeen at Hampden Park (3pm) would be the perfect ending to a dream campaign for the Carnlough man and his ruthless Hoops.

Celtic are unbeaten domestically since the start of the season and secured a sixth successive Ladbrokes Premiership title after tasting League Cup success.

And in a week which saw the Parkhead club celebrate with gusto the winning of the European Cup in Lisbon 50 years ago, excitement levels are rising ahead of what would be an historic achievement at Hampden.

Rodgers, on the cusp of being only the third Celtic manager to win the clean sweep in Scotland after Jock Stein (twice) and Martin O'Neill - although he would be the first to do it without a defeat - is keeping it low key.

"We have tried to remove the emotion of it all, as we have done for a lot of the season," said the Ulsterman (below), who confirmed striker Moussa Dembele is available again after recovering from a hamstring injury.

"We have just tried to look at the next game.

"Of course, there has been a lot of things written and said in the last few months about what the players could or couldn't achieve in terms of going the season unbeaten.

"I have been asked about that for the last couple of months.

"We have tried to retain our focus, that's what we have done, and it is about concentrating on what we can control and our preparation.

"And the players have dealt brilliantly with pressure this season.

"We are here to win and we plan to win."

Rodgers added: “We plan for every competition domestically to do that and thankfully we have been able to do that.

“We have earned the right to be here through our work and play.”

The former Swansea and Liverpool manager, who took over from Norwegian boss Ronny Deila last term, stressed that his side will have enjoyed a “brilliant season” even if things do not go their way against the Dons, who they have beaten five times this campaign.

He said: “We started in the middle of June and tomorrow we arrive on May 27. It is a long, hard season but it has been truly enjoyable.

“The feeling around the club and the team is fantastic and we want to continue with that.

“No matter what the result is, it has been a brilliant season for us, our first season together knowing that next season we can only improve.”

Rodgers, who hopes to guide his side to a first domestic treble since 2001, admitted that his squad had performed better than he had envisaged when he first met them last summer.

The 44-year-old added: “I would be lying if I said that they have done everything I thought they would.

“When I came in I wanted us to continue the cycle of winning.

“The club had won five consecutive titles. My mindset was could I foster a mindset to win in a better way, and as we go through the season can we adapt and adjust the goals as we progress and develop as a team?

“But they certainly exceeded what I thought they could achieve.

“My job is to lead and push and demand and the players have been able to cope with that. Not just their energy and attitude but actually the quality of their football.

“It is how I wanted it to be, creative, attacking, fast, unpredictable and entertaining for the supporters because that is the obligation. It is not the choice, it is the obligation at Celtic to do that.”

If he were to start at Hampden, Dembele would have to displace Leigh Griffiths, who has netted four goals in five matches in his absence.

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Rodgers said: “When Leigh was playing earlier on in the season, Moussa was on the side. Leigh gets injured and Moussa comes in and does fantastically well. Leigh has missed a lot of the season through illness, injury and through the form of the team.

“A little bit like the likes of James Forrest. James has played a lot this season, Patrick (Roberts) got into the team and did very well and it was difficult for James to get in.

“I know I can rely on them all and whoever we put into the team I’m sure will do a fantastic job.

“All the players throughout the season have given me selection issues. We had our 208th session today of which in the main the players have been available for most of them.

“We have had a number of injuries throughout the season, but every player who has come in has done very well.”

Rodgers, meanwhile, has praised Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes and says he’s expecting a real battle at Hampden.

“Derek has done a great job, not just this year but building up over the course of the last four seasons. They have had a really high standard of play,” he added.

“We’ve played them five times and won the five and they have all been slightly different in terms of how they have performed.

“But he has them very well organised, they are very well drilled, they play to their strengths and, even though we won the League Cup final and played very well, and in the league, they have all been tough games.

“If we can bring our best game then we feel we have a really good chance of winning.”

 

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