Belfast Telegraph

Hearts 1 - 2 Celtic: Hoops secure place in League Cup semi-final

Scottish League Cup Quarter-final

Celtic shrugged off the cuts and bruises of their Lennoxtown bust-up as they delivered a knock-out blow to Hearts' League Cup ambitions with a quarter-final win at Tynecastle.

The Hoops' pre-match preparations were overshadowed by a training-ground incident which left defender Emilio Izaguirre requiring hospital treatment following a violent clash with team-mate Nadir Ciftci.

But there was no sign of disharmony in the Parkhead ranks as they shrugged off a disjointed display to grind out a 2-1 win.

Leigh Griffiths had been a frustrated spectator for much of the match but showed lethal composure to slot his team ahead on 71 minutes before creating the second, finished off by Tom Rogic's clever back-heel 10 minutes later.

Arnaud Djoum headed a late consolation effort for the Jambos but it is the cup holders who will now take their place in Monday's draw for the last four.

Despite having had stitches inserted in an ear wound following his brush with Ciftci, left-back Izaguirre was recalled to Ronny Deila's starting line-up in place of the benched Kieran Tierney. It was a tough one for the 18-year-old having been Celtic's top performer in Sunday's 5-0 romp over Dundee United.

But Deila had to re-jig his side again just moments before kick-off when Scott Brown limped out of the warm-up, with James Forrest promoted to start.

Morale was high in the Jambos camp after extending their unbeaten run to five games with Saturday's win over Ross County. But it was their fans who found themselves under the spotlight after reports of disturbances amongst a small section of supporters during Saturday's Staggies victory.

Celtic's visits to Gorgie always fall into the powder-keg category so it was with good reason that Ann Budge warned her side's followers to be on their best behaviour.

Thankfully for the Hearts chairwoman, the early events on the pitch did little to spark passions in the stands as a grim opening 25 minutes produced just one notable effort from Forrest which struck team-mate Griffiths before it could trouble keeper Neil Alexander.

Osman Sow did finally get the Hearts support off their seats as he strode towards the Celtic box. His shot, however, trickled wide.

Chances remained at a premium but it was the hosts who thought they had the lead after 63 minutes when Sow prodded the ball home after Juanma knocked down a deep Jordan McGhee free-kick. His celebrations, though, were quickly snuffed out by an offside flag.

That scare was just the thing Celtic needed to shake themselves into action. Griffiths produced the spark they needed as he wriggled past McGhee and Igor Rossi before stroking his finish past Alexander.

Given the Gorgie faithful's weekend misdemeanours, the former Hibs striker's decision to run the width of the park and celebrate in front of them was not his wisest from a public order viewpoint and he was correctly booked by referee John Beaton.

Once ahead, the Hoops now had Hearts where they wanted them and went for the kill. Griffiths stunned a long ball with a perfect first touch, skipped past Morgaro Gomis on his way to the by-line before picking out Rogic to flick home at the neat post.

Ciftci was thrown on for the final five minutes but managed to keep his nose clean, while Djoum's header from a stoppage-time corner was too little too late for Robbie Neilson's side.

Last laugh

Leigh Griffiths claims he had the last laugh against Hearts after firing Celtic into the League Cup semi-finals.

The former Hibernian frontman was on the receiving end of some foul-mouthed flak from the Tynecastle support as he returned to the capital.

But he hushed the Gorgie faithful with his stunning opening goal in his side's 2-1 win and lapped up the silence as he ran the width of the park to celebrate in front of them.

The home fans had been warned to behave by Jambos chairwoman Ann Budge following reports of disturbances during Saturday's win over Ross County but they responded angrily to Griffiths' taunts.

Referee John Beaton flashed a yellow card his way but the Scotland international was happy to accept the punishment.

He said: "The yellow was a bit harsh, but if you give me a goal like that and a yellow card then I'll take it all day long.

"I get abuse everywhere I go - here you always get stick as an ex-Hibee but the only way to shut them up is to score."

Celtic had struggled to break the Jambos down but Griffiths' moment of magic sent them on their way after 71 minutes as he danced his way into the box to score.

Boss Ronny Deila was preparing to take off the frontman 10 minutes later when he came up with another brilliant run to create the second for Tom Rogic, with the Australian netting with a clever back-heel.

Arnaud Djoum headed a late consolation effort for the Jambos but it is the cup holders who will now take their place in Monday's draw for the last four.

However, Celtic now face an anxious wait ahead of a crucial week. Captain Scott Brown missed the clash after injuring his knee in the warm-up while winger Gary Mackay-Steven also had to pull out from sitting on the bench with a tight groin.

With crucial clashes against Ladbrokes Premiership title rivals Aberdeen and then Molde in the Europa League coming up, it is the last thing Deila wants to see.

But the Norwegian said: "Gary will be ready very quickly but with Scott we will have to scan it tomorrow and then we can say what it is.

"I don't think it is serious. I hope it isn't. But, again, it is a knee and we have to wait for the scan."

The defeat ended Hearts' five-game unbeaten run but head coach Robbie Neilson said: "We didn't look like we were going to concede for long periods of the game.

"Our quality could have been better on the counter attack when we broke, we had opportunities to do it.

"But we have come a long way in 18 months, the club has been in administration, got promotion to the top league and we are sitting here getting frustrated after a 2-1 defeat to Celtic when they were holding on at the end , desperate to get the win."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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