‘Amazing’ Celtic set up chance for Neil Lennon to lay ghost to rest — cup roundup

Celtic swept Hibs aside to reach the League Cup final where they will meet Rangers.

In reaching their fourth consecutive League Cup final, Celtic won their 30th cup-tie in a row and can now win a perfect 10 competitions on the trot.

Celtic were in devastating attacking form as they took five off a struggling Hibs side.

The opener came immediately after Bobby Madden failed to give a penalty for a blatant handball. The miss was right out of the top drawer of Incomprehensible Scottish Referee’s Decisions When Celtic Are Playing.

When Forrest brilliantly dug out a cross for Elyounoussi to head home, he also helped dig Madden out of a hole. Before long it was 2-0 and this time Celtic did get the benefit of some poor decision making as a clearly offside Edouard set up McGregor to slot home.

The failure to spot the offside will no doubt be up there with the notorious shy incident of 1989 when, Roy Aitken majestically stole a throw-in 80 yards from the Rangers goal and did them out of a treble.

Not to mention the dubious corner Celtic won at Fir Park in 2008 that helped Gordon Strachan’s side to three-in-a-row.

It looked at that point as if Paul Heckingbottom was already heading up the road as a thrashing beckoned, but he stuck around to see Hibs pull one back through Hallberg after a game of pinball on the edge of the box.

Celtic’s two-goal cushion was restored just before the break when Rogic played in Edouard who showed great strength and composure to tee up Elyounoussi who fired home.

The Norwegian was outstanding but was denied a hattrick by the width of the post in the second half, while James Forrest also hit the woodwork as Hibs clung on.

Scott Brown then pounced on a loose ball at a corner to put Celtic on easy street, but almost immediately the Hibees pulled a goal back through Kamberi with the Hoops defence sleeping.

Brown then took a sore one from Scott Allan which was missed by the ref, but he would have the last laugh. The captain ran the length of the pitch, exchanging passes with Elyounoussi along the way, before firing home at the second attempt.

Neil Lennon was blown away by his stars as he hailed their “amazing” winning run in cup competitions.

He’s now led the team to two cup finals since returning to the club in February and took time to praise Brendan Rodgers for his part in the incredible sequence of wins.

Speaking after the game, he said: “I don’t know where it ranks in terms of British football and records. But it’s amazing.

“Anything can happen on any given day. You get bad days — I’ve had them as a player and manager.

“Brendan Rodgers has put this sort of mentality in place, and we’re trying to carry that on. The players just don’t want to give that up.”

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Celtic will face Rangers in the final on 8 December after the Ibrox side beat Hearts 3-0 this afternoon.

After sacking Craig Levein, who somehow manages to remain at the club despite losing two jobs, Hearts would have been hoping for a dead cat bounce.

However, if that was Austin MacPhee’s audition for the role, he fluffed his lines in spectacular fashion. Having watched Uche Ikpeazu give Rangers a tough time at Tynecastle a couple of weeks ago, it seemed a strange decision to leave the bruising frontman on the bench.

Even stranger was an abject reluctance to get the ball up the pitch, or even send big men up to contest corners. Rangers inevitably got the breakthrough just before half-time and after that it was a matter of how many.

There’s more life in a bone comb than there was in Hearts’ toothless second-half display and a good team would have wiped the floor with them.

Despite the gushing praise of the commentary crew, Rangers are not that good team.

To be fair, they probably do have the second and third best Ryans in Scottish football and they now have a chance to add to their Petrofac Cup glory.

They also have a flat-track bully in Alfredo Morelos and he’ll be looking to win some silverware before another concerted effort to drum up interest in him in January.

With eye-watering losses of £11.3m on a £53.2m turnover, it’s hard to see how financial catastrophe isn’t a few short moves away. Having emerged from the ashes of the old Rangers, there seems to be a psychological barrier to common sense at Ibrox that makes them unable to live within their means.

They have thrown the kitchen sink at stopping Celtic reaching nine in a row. But with Dave King having seen at first hand the fatal damage a kitchen sink can do to a football club, it seems a reckless folly.

Still, who cares? If they want to go bust that’s up to them. Their fans certainly won’t be missed if they never darken Scottish football’s door again.

In the meantime, it’s up to Celtic to snuff out all and any hope they have on the pitch.

Anything can happen in a cup competition and, as anyone watching South Africa’s win over England in the rugby World Cup final will know, upsets happen.

Celtic will need to guard against complacency at a stadium that, to borrow a line from Bertie Auld, has become like their training ground.

Lennon has yet to win the trophy as a manager and he’ll be keen to lay that particular ghost to rest. If his Celtic team turn up and play to anything like their capabilities, we won’t just be watching a 10th successive competition win, we’ll be witnessing an exorcism.

For Rangers, it’s the hope that kills you (that and gross financial mismanagement, obviously). But their win today means that they only have two home league games between now and their January fire sale.

With Celtic, on paper, facing a kind run of fixtures, a December double over Gerrard’s outfit should hopefully put us in a great position to see off any Ibrox title challenge, leave their Petrofac Cup unloved and ever lonely in their trophy cabinet, and ruin their Christmas and New Year holidays like an undercooked turkey.

Here we go, 10 in a row!


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