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Rodgers delight with Celtic's energy-savers ahead of Rangers clash

Dundee 0 Celtic 4

By Ronnie Esplin

Boss Brendan Rodgers claims Celtic were able to take a rest during their 4-0 Betfred Cup quarter-final win over Dundee at Dens Park.

Scott Sinclair scored from the spot in the 25th minute before fellow attacker James Forrest added a second just before the break.

The treble winners cruised the second half and substitute Callum McGregor drove in a third with two minutes remaining before Forrest grabbed his second in added time to take the visitors into the semi-final draw along with Hibernian, Rangers and the winners of tonight's Motherwell versus Aberdeen tie.

Rodgers, who hopes to have defender Jozo Simunovic back against Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday after he missed out with a swollen knee, was happy with the way his side conserved energy while retaining their hunger for two late goals.

The Ulsterman said: "It is the mark of the team. I always say to never leave the game early.

"What we did very well was we had a rest when we had the ball. We are always hungry to get the ball and if we are to get any rest in the game it has to be with the ball.

"If you are going to rest in the game, rest with the football because it is a lot harder when you haven't got the ball and have to chase.

"Callum McGregor's goal was a great example of that. He starts three or four yards behind Scott Sinclair but his hunger and desire to get up there was fantastic."

Rodgers was pleased to see defender Dedryck Boyata back for the first time this season after recovering from a knee injury.

He said: "He got a good hour. It was nice to see him back as he is a big presence in the team."

Rodgers revealed striker Moussa Dembele was rested, but said of Simunovic: "We will see tomorrow. There was a bit of swelling in his knee but the medics tell me he should be fine."

Skipper Scott Brown came to Celtic's rescue in the 18th minute when he raced back to foil AJ Leitch-Smith, who had raced clear onto a Faissal El Bakhtaoui throughball.

Dundee, though, had no answer to Sinclair when he burst into the box with defender Jack Hendry sending him flying, the Parkhead forward picking himself up and confidently despatching the penalty past Scott Bain.

When Celtic defender Nir Bitton dispossessed Cammy Kerr it allowed Kieran Tierney to drive down the left before cutting the ball back for Forrest to sweep in from 12 yards.

Few would have bet against the Parkhead side, who looked the more likely to get the next goal when the second-half began, with Leigh Griffiths' deflected drive drawing a decent save.

In the 76th minute Bain blocked a Forrest drive, and the game was fizzling out until the Hoops broke with pace, Sinclair playing in McGregor who drilled past Bain.

And there was even more woe for the Dundee keeper when he was beaten by a drive from Forrest in the final stages.

Dundee: Bain, Kerr, Holt, O'Dea, Hendry, Leitch-Smith, Kamara, O'Hara, Wolters (Deacon, 63 mins) Spence (McGowan, 72 mins), Bakhtaou. Unused subs: Parish, Williams, Aurtenetxe, Waddell, Henvey

Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Boyata (Ralston, 67 mins), Bitton, Forrest, Brown, Ntcham, Tierney, Roberts (McGregor, 72 mins), Sinclair; Griffiths (Edouard, 84 mins).

Unused subs: De Vries, Armstrong, Hayes, Rogic,

Man of the match: James Forrest

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: John Beaton

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