Celtic fight off Hibs comeback, Motherwell’s incredible run continues: Scottish League Cup semi-final recap
While it only may be October, the past weekend saw two deciding matches for who will be competing for Scottish football’s first piece of silverware of the season. On Sunday 26 November, Celtic will be defending their Scottish League Cup title against an in-form Motherwell side, who will be playing their first cup final since 2011. How did the finalists fair in their semi-final clashes? By David Ronney
Hibernian 2-4 Celtic
The two sides had already met earlier this season in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Parkhead where Hibs were close to bringing Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run to an end. The clash at the national stadium was just as thrilling but for different reasons.
Despite cruising for much of the first half thanks to a brace from defender Mikael Lustig, Celtic were up against it in the second. Steven Whittaker and Martin Boyle’s introduction to the game allowed Hibs to string together passes far better, and the Edinburgh side didn’t look as nervous at the back compared to the initial 45.
However, a penalty kick scored by Anthony Stokes and a strike from youngster Oliver Shaw wasn’t enough for Neil Lennon’s side to get back into the game. Hibs had been trailing since the 15th minute and a second half brace from French striker Moussa Dembele kept them from levelling the game. Dembele himself looked more like the striker seen for long portions of last season as he returns with full fitness to challenge Leigh Griffiths for a spot in Brendan Rodgers’ starting 11.
While Celtic were in the end fully deserving of the win with an impressive performance, Hibs shouldn’t feel hard done by. The game looked a lot more level in the second half but by that point they were chasing the game and left themselves open to the counter, which Celtic have been notorious for scoring from under Rodgers.
There are issues that the Celtic manager will be aware of from his team’s performance, notably the foul that resulted in the penalty. Dedryck Boyata appeared to have had won the ball off Boyle, nevertheless, the defender was dispossessed in the middle of the park which arguably was the result of the chance being created in the first place.
Rodgers will likely be out to iron out these issues and keep his team’s momentum leading up to the Glasgow club’s defence of the league cup next month.
Rangers 0-2 Motherwell
Pedro Caixinha’s job has just got even more difficult. The Portuguese manager has suffered more lows than highs during his time at Ibrox. Despite having a 69.6% win percentage as Rangers boss, it is the manner and timing of the defeats that seem so costly for the club and manager’s reputation.
A heavy defeat against their rivals last season, a horror result against Luxembourg side Progres Niederkorn, one of the worst in the club’s history, and now crashing out of a semi-final clearly shows that Caixinha has some work to do to get this Rangers side back on track.
Another worry for Rangers is the unexplained absence of Kenny Miller. While some may write the former Scotland international off, the 37-year-old has a track record of scoring in big games and a match such as this would be screaming for a player of his calibre to come in and bring the Gers back into it.
Saying that, take nothing away from Motherwell’s performance as they were terrific. Dominating Rangers in possession, it was Louis Moult’s deadly double that sent Stephen Robinson’s side into the final.
The Fir Park side haven’t had the easiest runs to the final but they have certainly made it look that way. Beating the likes of Aberdeen and Ross County on the road to Hampden, they have defied the odds this season and are fully deserving of a cup final spot against Celtic in next month’s clash.