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Rangers 0 Motherwell 2: Louis Moult double settles ill-tempered League Cup semi-final

Rangers 0 Motherwell 2: Louis Moult double settles ill-tempered League Cup semi-final

Rangers 0 Motherwell 2: Louis Moult double settles ill-tempered League Cup semi-final

A contest of thud, blood and stud at Hampden Park saw Motherwell into the final of the Betfred Scottish League Cup against Celtic at the same venue on November 26. The Fir Park striker, Louis Moult – a summer target for Rangers – became their nemesis with two goals after the break, but the occasion overall was ugly. The abrasive tone of the proceedings extended to the rival managers, both of whom were sent to the stand midway through the second half after an ugly square-up in front of the tunnel. Their dispute stemmed from a flying elbow by Ryan Bowman which caught Fabio Cardoso on the head and forced the Rangers defender to leave the field with blood streaming from his nose, to be replaced by the teenager, Ross McCrorie. Bowman had been cautioned in the first half for exactly the same action against Cardoso, so it was understandable that Pedro Caixinha should be incensed that the Motherwell man was permitted to stay on the field, but when the Portuguese coach and his opposite number Steve Robinson became embroiled on the edge of the pitch they were both dismissed by Steven McLean. Bowman’s second offence occurred directly in front of the referee and, even from the distance of the stands it looked immediately like a straight red card incident, a view that was reinforced by TV replays. Robinson, though, played the innocent card. “I thought the referee had a good game and there was no intent whatsoever from Ryan,” said the Motherwell manager. “Pedro was trying to get one of our players sent off and I stuck up for him and the referee sent us both to the stand.” Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha was sent to the stands Caixinha, meanwhile, had a hunted look, not for the first time this season, but made no attempt to evade his part in the overall failure. “It was a bad day for the players, it was a bad day for the club and I’m responsible for that bad day,” he said. To make matters worse for Caixinha, the spectacle of the Rangers faithful hurrying out of the stadium long before the final whistle was witnessed by the club chairman, Dave King, on one of his occasional visits to Glasgow from his home in South Africa. King was spotted beforehand in conversation with Kenny Miller, who has been excluded from Caixinha’s plans, a consequence of the fallout from the Old Firm game at Ibrox last month after which details of dressing room exchanges were revealed in the media. It is a certainty that Miller’s absence will be part of whatever discussion King has had or will have with his beleaguered manager. Caixinha cannot take refuge in the match statistics, which showed that Motherwell enjoyed the bulk of possession, as many shots on and off target as Rangers and a corner kick superiority of nine to four. In addition, although Rangers were entitled to a grievance about Bowman, they should have been down to 10 men when Bruno Alves aimed a kick at Moult off the ball, an action which will probably attract the attention of the Scottish Football Association’s compliance officer. Moreover, while Rangers will rue the three clear chances which fell to Josh Windass - each of which he put straight into the arms of Trevor Carson - Motherwell came within a fraction of another goal just before the break when Ryan Jack turned a shot from Cedric Kirke off the line. Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson was also given his marching orders By that stage, Rangers were beginning to rue their missed opportunities, especially since the blustery wind had blown into the faces of the Motherwell defenders. It was a certainty that when the conditions turned in their favour, the Steelmen would try to harness the wind to supply Moult. The breakthrough came seven minutes after the break when a corner kick dropped towards Jak Alnwick’s back post, where Peter Hartley headed off the crossbar, which also deflected Moult’s header from the rebound. This time the ball bounced down for the striker to hook his finish home from point blank range. Moult’s second contribution was a delight. With quarter of an hour left to play, Charles Dunne pushed up on the Motherwell left and caught the Rangers defence on the turn with a lob which bounced in front of Moult to permit him a perfect lob over the stranded Alnwick into the far corner of the net. “We didn't manage to cope with the expectation,” Caixinha said. “We let the opponents play the way they wanted and after the second goal we just disappeared as a team. “Overall, it was a poor performance from us. We were here to deliver to our fan-base the present of a place in the final and we haven't. I am responsible for that.” It remains to be seen whether or not he will be responsible for much longer.

Rangers 0 Motherwell 2: Louis Moult double settles ill-tempered League Cup semi-final

A contest of thud, blood and stud at Hampden Park saw Motherwell into the final of the Betfred Scottish League Cup against Celtic at the same venue on November 26. The Fir Park striker, Louis Moult – a summer target for Rangers – became their nemesis with two goals after the break, but the occasion overall was ugly. The abrasive tone of the proceedings extended to the rival managers, both of whom were sent to the stand midway through the second half after an ugly square-up in front of the tunnel. Their dispute stemmed from a flying elbow by Ryan Bowman which caught Fabio Cardoso on the head and forced the Rangers defender to leave the field with blood streaming from his nose, to be replaced by the teenager, Ross McCrorie. Bowman had been cautioned in the first half for exactly the same action against Cardoso, so it was understandable that Pedro Caixinha should be incensed that the Motherwell man was permitted to stay on the field, but when the Portuguese coach and his opposite number Steve Robinson became embroiled on the edge of the pitch they were both dismissed by Steven McLean. Bowman’s second offence occurred directly in front of the referee and, even from the distance of the stands it looked immediately like a straight red card incident, a view that was reinforced by TV replays. Robinson, though, played the innocent card. “I thought the referee had a good game and there was no intent whatsoever from Ryan,” said the Motherwell manager. “Pedro was trying to get one of our players sent off and I stuck up for him and the referee sent us both to the stand.” Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha was sent to the stands Caixinha, meanwhile, had a hunted look, not for the first time this season, but made no attempt to evade his part in the overall failure. “It was a bad day for the players, it was a bad day for the club and I’m responsible for that bad day,” he said. To make matters worse for Caixinha, the spectacle of the Rangers faithful hurrying out of the stadium long before the final whistle was witnessed by the club chairman, Dave King, on one of his occasional visits to Glasgow from his home in South Africa. King was spotted beforehand in conversation with Kenny Miller, who has been excluded from Caixinha’s plans, a consequence of the fallout from the Old Firm game at Ibrox last month after which details of dressing room exchanges were revealed in the media. It is a certainty that Miller’s absence will be part of whatever discussion King has had or will have with his beleaguered manager. Caixinha cannot take refuge in the match statistics, which showed that Motherwell enjoyed the bulk of possession, as many shots on and off target as Rangers and a corner kick superiority of nine to four. In addition, although Rangers were entitled to a grievance about Bowman, they should have been down to 10 men when Bruno Alves aimed a kick at Moult off the ball, an action which will probably attract the attention of the Scottish Football Association’s compliance officer. Moreover, while Rangers will rue the three clear chances which fell to Josh Windass - each of which he put straight into the arms of Trevor Carson - Motherwell came within a fraction of another goal just before the break when Ryan Jack turned a shot from Cedric Kirke off the line. Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson was also given his marching orders By that stage, Rangers were beginning to rue their missed opportunities, especially since the blustery wind had blown into the faces of the Motherwell defenders. It was a certainty that when the conditions turned in their favour, the Steelmen would try to harness the wind to supply Moult. The breakthrough came seven minutes after the break when a corner kick dropped towards Jak Alnwick’s back post, where Peter Hartley headed off the crossbar, which also deflected Moult’s header from the rebound. This time the ball bounced down for the striker to hook his finish home from point blank range. Moult’s second contribution was a delight. With quarter of an hour left to play, Charles Dunne pushed up on the Motherwell left and caught the Rangers defence on the turn with a lob which bounced in front of Moult to permit him a perfect lob over the stranded Alnwick into the far corner of the net. “We didn't manage to cope with the expectation,” Caixinha said. “We let the opponents play the way they wanted and after the second goal we just disappeared as a team. “Overall, it was a poor performance from us. We were here to deliver to our fan-base the present of a place in the final and we haven't. I am responsible for that.” It remains to be seen whether or not he will be responsible for much longer.

Rangers 0 Motherwell 2: Louis Moult double settles ill-tempered League Cup semi-final

A contest of thud, blood and stud at Hampden Park saw Motherwell into the final of the Betfred Scottish League Cup against Celtic at the same venue on November 26. The Fir Park striker, Louis Moult – a summer target for Rangers – became their nemesis with two goals after the break, but the occasion overall was ugly. The abrasive tone of the proceedings extended to the rival managers, both of whom were sent to the stand midway through the second half after an ugly square-up in front of the tunnel. Their dispute stemmed from a flying elbow by Ryan Bowman which caught Fabio Cardoso on the head and forced the Rangers defender to leave the field with blood streaming from his nose, to be replaced by the teenager, Ross McCrorie. Bowman had been cautioned in the first half for exactly the same action against Cardoso, so it was understandable that Pedro Caixinha should be incensed that the Motherwell man was permitted to stay on the field, but when the Portuguese coach and his opposite number Steve Robinson became embroiled on the edge of the pitch they were both dismissed by Steven McLean. Bowman’s second offence occurred directly in front of the referee and, even from the distance of the stands it looked immediately like a straight red card incident, a view that was reinforced by TV replays. Robinson, though, played the innocent card. “I thought the referee had a good game and there was no intent whatsoever from Ryan,” said the Motherwell manager. “Pedro was trying to get one of our players sent off and I stuck up for him and the referee sent us both to the stand.” Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha was sent to the stands Caixinha, meanwhile, had a hunted look, not for the first time this season, but made no attempt to evade his part in the overall failure. “It was a bad day for the players, it was a bad day for the club and I’m responsible for that bad day,” he said. To make matters worse for Caixinha, the spectacle of the Rangers faithful hurrying out of the stadium long before the final whistle was witnessed by the club chairman, Dave King, on one of his occasional visits to Glasgow from his home in South Africa. King was spotted beforehand in conversation with Kenny Miller, who has been excluded from Caixinha’s plans, a consequence of the fallout from the Old Firm game at Ibrox last month after which details of dressing room exchanges were revealed in the media. It is a certainty that Miller’s absence will be part of whatever discussion King has had or will have with his beleaguered manager. Caixinha cannot take refuge in the match statistics, which showed that Motherwell enjoyed the bulk of possession, as many shots on and off target as Rangers and a corner kick superiority of nine to four. In addition, although Rangers were entitled to a grievance about Bowman, they should have been down to 10 men when Bruno Alves aimed a kick at Moult off the ball, an action which will probably attract the attention of the Scottish Football Association’s compliance officer. Moreover, while Rangers will rue the three clear chances which fell to Josh Windass - each of which he put straight into the arms of Trevor Carson - Motherwell came within a fraction of another goal just before the break when Ryan Jack turned a shot from Cedric Kirke off the line. Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson was also given his marching orders By that stage, Rangers were beginning to rue their missed opportunities, especially since the blustery wind had blown into the faces of the Motherwell defenders. It was a certainty that when the conditions turned in their favour, the Steelmen would try to harness the wind to supply Moult. The breakthrough came seven minutes after the break when a corner kick dropped towards Jak Alnwick’s back post, where Peter Hartley headed off the crossbar, which also deflected Moult’s header from the rebound. This time the ball bounced down for the striker to hook his finish home from point blank range. Moult’s second contribution was a delight. With quarter of an hour left to play, Charles Dunne pushed up on the Motherwell left and caught the Rangers defence on the turn with a lob which bounced in front of Moult to permit him a perfect lob over the stranded Alnwick into the far corner of the net. “We didn't manage to cope with the expectation,” Caixinha said. “We let the opponents play the way they wanted and after the second goal we just disappeared as a team. “Overall, it was a poor performance from us. We were here to deliver to our fan-base the present of a place in the final and we haven't. I am responsible for that.” It remains to be seen whether or not he will be responsible for much longer.

Rangers 0 Motherwell 2: Louis Moult double settles ill-tempered League Cup semi-final

Pedro Caixinha under pressure after Rangers slump to Motherwell defeat

Pedro Caixinha under pressure after Rangers slump to Motherwell defeat

Pedro Caixinha under pressure after Rangers slump to Motherwell defeat

Louis Moult celebrates after scoring the first of his two goals for Motherwell in their 2-0 win against Rangers in the Scottish League Cup semi-final.

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell’s Andy Rose celebrates with team mates at the end of the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell’s Carl McHugh celebrates with team mates at the end of the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell’s Peter Hartley REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell’s Peter Hartley celebrates at the end of the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell’s Louis Moult celebrates with his daughter at the end of the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell’s Louis Moult celebrates with his daughter at the end of the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha during the game REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell’s Louis Moult celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers’ Bruno Alves and team mates speak with referee Steven McLean REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers’ Bruno Alves, James Tavernier (2nd R) and Fabio Cardosa (R) in action with Motherwell’s Cedric Kipre (L) and Peter Hartley REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell’s Louis Moult scores their first goal REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell’s Louis Moult celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell’s Louis Moult (L) celebrates scoring their first goal with Charles Dunne (C) and Chris Cadden (R) REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell’s Louis Moult celebrates scoring their first goal with Charles Dunne (L) and Chris Cadden (R) REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers’ Josh Windass in action with Motherwell’s Chris Cadden and Carl McHugh (L) REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha and a cameraman REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson and Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Former Rangers player Ally McCoist REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 (L - R) Rangers’ Bruno Alves looks dejected REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers’ Alfredo Morelos in action REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers’ James Tavernier in action REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers’ Daniel Candeias in action with Motherwell’s Louis Moult REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers’ Graham Dorrans in action with Motherwell’s Allan Campbell REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell

Soccer Football - Scottish League Cup Semi Final - Rangers vs Motherwell - Hampden Park, Glasgow, Britain - October 22, 2017 Rangers fans and police look on before the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Hibernian 2 Celtic 4: Moussa Dembele double sends Hoops into Betfred Scottish League Cup final

An improbable double act saw Celtic into the final of the Betfred Scottish League Cup – against either Rangers or Motherwell, who meet at Hampden Park on Sunday – and to their 60th successive unbeaten domestic fixture. Against a Hibernian side whose late rally put the issue briefly in doubt, Mikael Lustig, who had not scored in 21 prior appearances for Celtic this season, found the net twice before the interval to set the Hoops. The victory was secured by two strikes from Moussa Dembele, whose previous contribution amounted to one goal from seven outings. Hibs produced their best spell in the second half, when their ambitions were resuscitated by a penalty kick converted by Anthony Stokes and a cleverly worked goal scored by Oliver Shaw, a product of the club’s youth academy. “We gave them a two-goal start and you can't do that and the manner we gave away the goals was disappointing,” said Neil Lennon, the Hibs manager. “We improved in the second half, but overall I was pleased with the way we played and there were some good performances out there. Dembele scores the fourth goal Credit:  REUTERS “It gave us a lot to do in the second half, but we had a real good go at it. It is just sloppiness of the goals that were the difference.” When the teams met previously in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Parkhead, Lennon observed that Celtic could be sluggish after a demanding European engagement in midweek. In the lead-up to this game, however, the Easter Road manager played a different card, declaring that he expected his former team to display a strong reaction to their 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena. Certainly, Brendan Rodgers did not feel obliged to refresh his ranks other than to leave Cristian Gamboa and Olivier Ntcham on the bench, with Nir Bitton and Callum McGregor given a start. Hibs, too, showed two changes as Gray and Brandon Barker replaced Whittaker and Boyle, who played in the previous weekend’s 1-0 home league defeat by Aberdeen. What became evident immediately was that, even if they felt that they might suffer the effects of their trip to Germany, Celtic were not about to save themselves for later. They pressed from the start to such effect that they won their first corner kick within 90 seconds from a Stuart Armstrong shot which deflected wide, despite Laidlaw’s attempt to stop the ball going out of play. Mikael Lustig also scored a brace Credit:  Action Plus Hibs looked discomfited by Celtic’s passing game but Brandon Barker raised the spirits of the Easter Road faithful with a powerful run which took him beyond the Hoops’ back line, though he could not find a colleague with the final ball. The outlook seemed to have brightened for Hibs when Anthony Stokes surged clear on the right of the Celtic box to find Barker on the other side with a driven cross, but the on-loan Manchester City midfielder slashed a shot into the side netting when the better option would have been a return cross to the Irish striker. The optimism of the Edinburgh contingent was quashed swiftly by Lustig’s first intervention.   A chip from Stuart Armstrong was headed by Dedryck Boyata into the path of Lustig, whose shot found the mark beyond Ross Laidlaw, but the goalkeeper could have done better than get a frail hand to the ball. Laidlaw will feel even more uncomfortable if he watches replays of Lustig’s second, although his partner in dismay should be David Gray, who allowed the Swede to spin off him for a low drive which, again, was allowed by the keeper to spin off both his gloves into the roof of the net. Lennon replaced Gray and Bartley with Whittaker and Boyle at half time and Hibs looked a more competitive unit. That said, they were fortunate to be awarded a penalty for a challenge on Boyle by Boyata, who appeared to have taken the ball off the Hibs man’s toe, not that the niceties were of concern to Stokes, who sent Craig Gordon the wrong way from the spot. Rodgers, too, made decisive changes, one of which was to send on Dembele for Leigh Griffiths. The French striker put Celtic 3-1 ahead midway through the half when a miskick by Scott Sinclair fell perfectly for him to shoot home from a dozen yards out. The deficit was reduced again by Shaw, with a deft finish from Whittaker’s shrewd prompt, but Dembele put the issue beyond dispute when Boyle was ambushed at a Hibs corner kick and Celtic swept downfield for an unopposed clinching fourth goal. “To play in the Champions League, then to score four goals here against difficult opponents was very pleasing and to get to 60 games without a domestic defeat is really incredible,” said Rodgers. “The players’ mentality is excellent.”

Hibernian 2 Celtic 4: Moussa Dembele double sends Hoops into Betfred Scottish League Cup final

An improbable double act saw Celtic into the final of the Betfred Scottish League Cup – against either Rangers or Motherwell, who meet at Hampden Park on Sunday – and to their 60th successive unbeaten domestic fixture. Against a Hibernian side whose late rally put the issue briefly in doubt, Mikael Lustig, who had not scored in 21 prior appearances for Celtic this season, found the net twice before the interval to set the Hoops. The victory was secured by two strikes from Moussa Dembele, whose previous contribution amounted to one goal from seven outings. Hibs produced their best spell in the second half, when their ambitions were resuscitated by a penalty kick converted by Anthony Stokes and a cleverly worked goal scored by Oliver Shaw, a product of the club’s youth academy. “We gave them a two-goal start and you can't do that and the manner we gave away the goals was disappointing,” said Neil Lennon, the Hibs manager. “We improved in the second half, but overall I was pleased with the way we played and there were some good performances out there. Dembele scores the fourth goal Credit:  REUTERS “It gave us a lot to do in the second half, but we had a real good go at it. It is just sloppiness of the goals that were the difference.” When the teams met previously in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Parkhead, Lennon observed that Celtic could be sluggish after a demanding European engagement in midweek. In the lead-up to this game, however, the Easter Road manager played a different card, declaring that he expected his former team to display a strong reaction to their 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena. Certainly, Brendan Rodgers did not feel obliged to refresh his ranks other than to leave Cristian Gamboa and Olivier Ntcham on the bench, with Nir Bitton and Callum McGregor given a start. Hibs, too, showed two changes as Gray and Brandon Barker replaced Whittaker and Boyle, who played in the previous weekend’s 1-0 home league defeat by Aberdeen. What became evident immediately was that, even if they felt that they might suffer the effects of their trip to Germany, Celtic were not about to save themselves for later. They pressed from the start to such effect that they won their first corner kick within 90 seconds from a Stuart Armstrong shot which deflected wide, despite Laidlaw’s attempt to stop the ball going out of play. Mikael Lustig also scored a brace Credit:  Action Plus Hibs looked discomfited by Celtic’s passing game but Brandon Barker raised the spirits of the Easter Road faithful with a powerful run which took him beyond the Hoops’ back line, though he could not find a colleague with the final ball. The outlook seemed to have brightened for Hibs when Anthony Stokes surged clear on the right of the Celtic box to find Barker on the other side with a driven cross, but the on-loan Manchester City midfielder slashed a shot into the side netting when the better option would have been a return cross to the Irish striker. The optimism of the Edinburgh contingent was quashed swiftly by Lustig’s first intervention.   A chip from Stuart Armstrong was headed by Dedryck Boyata into the path of Lustig, whose shot found the mark beyond Ross Laidlaw, but the goalkeeper could have done better than get a frail hand to the ball. Laidlaw will feel even more uncomfortable if he watches replays of Lustig’s second, although his partner in dismay should be David Gray, who allowed the Swede to spin off him for a low drive which, again, was allowed by the keeper to spin off both his gloves into the roof of the net. Lennon replaced Gray and Bartley with Whittaker and Boyle at half time and Hibs looked a more competitive unit. That said, they were fortunate to be awarded a penalty for a challenge on Boyle by Boyata, who appeared to have taken the ball off the Hibs man’s toe, not that the niceties were of concern to Stokes, who sent Craig Gordon the wrong way from the spot. Rodgers, too, made decisive changes, one of which was to send on Dembele for Leigh Griffiths. The French striker put Celtic 3-1 ahead midway through the half when a miskick by Scott Sinclair fell perfectly for him to shoot home from a dozen yards out. The deficit was reduced again by Shaw, with a deft finish from Whittaker’s shrewd prompt, but Dembele put the issue beyond dispute when Boyle was ambushed at a Hibs corner kick and Celtic swept downfield for an unopposed clinching fourth goal. “To play in the Champions League, then to score four goals here against difficult opponents was very pleasing and to get to 60 games without a domestic defeat is really incredible,” said Rodgers. “The players’ mentality is excellent.”

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