Thursday, 16 May 2013

(OLD) Celtic book place in Scottish Cup Final

 CELTIC have booked their place in the Scottish Cup Final after a thrilling seven-goal thriller against Dundee United, ending their Hampden ‘curse’ in the process.

Since Neil Lennon was appointed to succeed Tony Mowbary, we have lost numerous big games at the national stadium - five to be precise.

The most recent of which was a 3-2 defeat to St Mirren, in yet another game where we simply did not turn up, meaning we left yet another cup game feeling rather melancholic.

If history had repeated itself against Dundee United, and we missed out on another cup final, serious questions would have been asked about this squad of players and their commitment and passion for this club and what we expect to achieve.
Celtic fans, from what I have seen and heard, unanimously agree that Hampden is a lifeless, bromidic ground, and leaving their time and time again empty handed is something that we can no longer accept or be content with.
So, could Celtic finally break this dreaded ‘curse’ as it is now known?
Celtic got the start that Lennon would have dreamed of.
Kris Commons has opened the scoring for Celtic on their previous three visits to the National stadium, and wouldn’t you know it, he did it again!
Commons picked up the ball from Victor Wanyama in the second minute of the game and eased past United midfielder Marc Millar before lashing the ball in from 25 yards into the corner of the net for his 17th goal of the season. 16 more than he managed in the whole of last year’s campaign.
It would be putting it politely to say Celtic were looking extremely nervy at the back. Despite this, we should have doubled our advantage when, in the 20th minute, Emilio Izaguirre stood a cross up at the back post for fellow full-back Lustig but his header from inside the six-yard box hit the post and John Rankin cleared the ball to safety.
Dundee United would make Celtic pay for that miss three minutes later, when Kelvin Wilson mistimed his tackle, leaving Daly to run on and play Mackay-Steven down the right channel and, with the Hoops defence posted missing, he played a one-two with teenager Ryan Gauld before bending a shot past Celtic keeper Fraser Forster from inside the box.
United were soon to take the lead, when Barry Douglas swung a teasing ball into the six-yard box. Daly wanted it more and got his reward as he nodded past Fraser Forster to give the Arabs the lead. Deja vu, right?
The lead only lasted 80 seconds, however, as Victor Wanyama, who was far from at his best for the Hoops, got on the end of an Izaguirre cross to head Celtic back level. Four goals after 30 minutes made for great showing for the neutral, who were also treated the day before in the other semi-final which saw Hibernian go through after a 4-3 win against Falkirk.
The second half saw both sides go all out to get the all-important goal. It was end-to-end stuff, but in the 59th minute, Izaguirre raced up the left, taking a Wanyama pass and when his cross came into the middle, Commons did not appear to know too much about it as it bounced off his chest/arm and trundled over the line. Not as spectacular as his first, but they all count.
11 minutes later, however, United were level again.
The unmarked Daly looped a header from Mackay-Steven's cross over Forster and in off the post. The cup final place, once more, was up for grabs.
The game finished like this meaning extra-time was required to separate the sides, who had produced a memorable semi-final. Substitute Anthony Stokes came out and got the goal that would prove to be the winner after 104 minutes of play.
Celtic, it appears, had broken their Hampden Curse, and will go on to face Hibs in the final on May 26.
Semi-finals are all about winning the tie and getting through. However, there were some serious concerns that I feel should be pointed out. I hope this game will give the players a physiological boost going into the final, after it appeared some of the squad were suffering from nerves.
Efe Ambrose was a bomb scare all afternoon. He is clearly a talented player, and likes to run with the ball, but there was times when that over-confidence gave the ball away and could easily have cost us the game.
Another player who I think is already planning his summer holidays is Gary Hooper. I, along with the vast majority of fans wanted Hooper to stay in January. But since then it appears he has lost his hunger and spark.
In my opinion, and it is just my opinion, Hooper was very poor today. His first touch was slack, he was struggling to complete the most simplest of passes and didn’t seem to have any sort of imagination. This clearly frustrated the Celtic fans, as they booed Neil Lennon’s decision to take off Commons and not Hooper.
Hooper has been brilliant for Celtic, scoring some crucial goals. I just feel it’s pretty clear he knows he will have to go to England to get his international call-up. I hope I am wrong, of course. I hope the likes of Hooper, Wanyama, and Forster can repay the faith the manager and fans have shown them since they moved to our club, in the final few games of the season.
Overall, I’m sure everyone was pleased with the result today and is relieved to get that ever-growing monkey off our backs. Let’s hope that continues on May 26, and we can complete the league and cup double.

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