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Boss Ronny Deila pleased as Celtic win with united front against Hearts in League Cup

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic shrugged off the cuts and bruises of their Lennoxtown bust-up as they delivered a knockout blow to Hearts' League Cup ambitions with a 2-1 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.

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.

Hoops boss Ronny Deila said: "The performance was good and we controlled the game. They didn't have a goal-scoring chance before their goal.

"You can see we've played three games in six days. We didn't have the tempo to open them up.

"Tom Rogic came on and added that and we got our chances.

"Leigh Griffiths was sniffing around waiting for his chances and he made two goals."

Despite having had stitches inserted in an ear wound following his brush with Ciftci, left-back Izaguirre was recalled to 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.

Deila added: "In the warm-up he felt something in his knee and we have to scan it tomorrow.

"Gary Mackay-Steven was feeling stiff in his groin. He was on the bench and we didn't take any chances.

"The team performance makes it even better after losing our captain but we have a good central midfield."

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.

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. Griffiths produced the spark as he wriggled past McGhee and Igor Rossi before finishing.

The former Hibs striker's decision to run the width of the park and celebrate in front of the away fans was not his wisest and he was correctly booked.

Once ahead, the Hoops had Hearts where they wanted them. Griffiths stunned a long ball with a perfect first touch and skipped past Morgaro Gomis before picking out Rogic to flick home.

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 simply too little too late for Robbie Neilson's side.

Belfast Telegraph


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