Celtic will play Aberdeen in the Scottish League Cup final after Moussa Dembele secured victory over Rangers in the Old Firm semi-final.
Brendan Rodgers’ side had the better of the first half with Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic drawing saves from Matt Gilks.
Erik Sviatchenko had a goal disallowed for Celtic and Sinclair’s free-kick was touched on to the bar by Gilks.
But there was to be a winner, Dembele’s heel converting Leigh Griffiths’ cross.
Rangers, 5-1 losers at Celtic Park last month, were restricted to counter-attacks, the best of which ended with Jason Holt’s shot being blocked well by Jozo Simunovic.
Celtic will return to Hampden to face the Dons on Sunday 27 November.
Celtic lose their killer instinct
This captivating semi-final set off at a fair old lick and barely let up all day. It was altogether different to the slaughter at Celtic Park, on the scoreboard at least. Celtic had a huge array of chances but were met with stiff Rangers resistance, most notably from their goalkeeper Gilks.
In the beginning there was controversy. When is there not in this fixture? In the 14th minute, Barrie McKay crashed to the floor in the box under a challenge from Simunovic. The Rangers fans screamed for a penalty. Craig Thomson, the referee, went the opposite way, booking McKay for a dive.
Dembele dived in the Rangers penalty area soon after and got away with it. Not that it it needed it, but the intensity cranked up another notch in those moments.
Celtic had so many opportunities but they did not have the ruthlessness of before. They attacked off a Lee Wallace blunder and when Dembele put Scott Sinclair through, Gilks denied him.
Gilks, in the team ahead of Wes Foderingham as per previous rounds of the competition, then almost gifted Celtic a goal when passing directly to Rogic. Had the Australian hit a shot first-time he surely would have scored from such close-range. Had he squared to a team-mate, it was a goal. Instead, he took a touch and got crowded out. A terrible waste.
Rangers hang in there
In the early minutes of the second half, Sviatchenko headed home only for Thomson to rule it out for a foul on Clint Hill. It was another big call by the referee – and a harsh one. The foul on the defender was highly questionable.
Rangers had their first shot on target in the 50th minute, a tame effort by James Tavernier, playing further forward on the right with Lee Hodson selected at right-back. Celtic drove on. Sinclair forced another save from Gilks after Rangers were sliced open in defence. Then, Rogic had a snapshot that went just wide.
One-way traffic, for sure, but what an almighty scare Rangers gave their rivals just before the hour when Holt had a point-blank shot blocked down by Simunovic. Either side of the big defender and Holt would surely have landed a sucker blow.
No way through
Celtic continued to pile on the pressure and create a mountain of chances. Dembele sclaffed a shot from close in, then a Sinclair free-kick somehow stayed out, Gilks getting a touch on it and putting it on to the crossbar.
By now, Griffiths was on the field and Celtic were playing two up front. Stuart Armstrong was also on as Rodgers went for the Rangers jugular. It was Armstrong who had the next chance, seven minutes from time, but once again the quite brilliant Gilks kicked away his effort.
With three minutes left, it looked like extra-time beckoned, but no. There was a dramatic last act. Celtic hoofed it out of defence and Wallace lost a physical tussle with Griffiths, who scampered away from him down the right.
He delivered his low cross with the outside of his left boot to Dembele running in at the near post. What Dembele did next was delicious – an improvised back-heel that beat the seemingly unbeatable Gilks. A delicious goal that finally broke Rangers and sent Celtic into the final, giving Rodgers an early chance to claim the first trophy of his Celtic tenure.
- 11WindassSubstituted forGarnerat 70′minutes
- 9MillerSubstituted forWaghornat 70′minutes
- 10McKayBooked at 15minsSubstituted forDodooat 78′minutes
- 8BrownBooked at 82mins
- 6BittonSubstituted forArmstrongat 63′minutes
- 49ForrestSubstituted forGamboaat 90+1′minutes
- 18RogicSubstituted forGriffithsat 70′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 2K Touré
- 24de Vries
- Craig Thomson
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Rangers 0, Celtic 1.
Second Half ends, Rangers 0, Celtic 1.
Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) is shown the yellow card.
Substitution, Celtic. Cristian Gamboa replaces James Forrest.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Matthew Gilks.
Attempt saved. Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Goal! Rangers 0, Celtic 1. Moussa Dembele (Celtic) right footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Leigh Griffiths.
Attempt missed. Stuart Armstrong (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Matthew Gilks.
Attempt saved. Stuart Armstrong (Celtic) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Attempt saved. Clint Hill (Rangers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Jozo Simunovic.
Attempt blocked. Joseph Dodoo (Rangers) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.
Scott Brown (Celtic) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Andy Halliday (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Scott Brown (Celtic).
Stuart Armstrong (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Martyn Waghorn (Rangers).
Joe Garner (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Erik Sviatchenko (Celtic).
Attempt missed. James Forrest (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.
Attempt missed. Stuart Armstrong (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right.
Substitution, Rangers. Joseph Dodoo replaces Barrie McKay.
Attempt missed. Moussa Dembele (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.
Attempt saved. Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Attempt missed. Moussa Dembele (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.
Attempt blocked. James Tavernier (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. James Forrest (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Substitution, Celtic. Leigh Griffiths replaces Tomas Rogic.
Substitution, Rangers. Joe Garner replaces Josh Windass.
Substitution, Rangers. Martyn Waghorn replaces Kenny Miller.
Foul by Josh Windass (Rangers).
Jozo Simunovic (Celtic) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Scott Sinclair (Celtic) hits the bar with a right footed shot from outside the box from a direct free kick.
Foul by Andy Halliday (Rangers).
Scott Brown (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Lee Wallace (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Tomas Rogic (Celtic).
Attempt missed. Josh Windass (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.
Substitution, Celtic. Stuart Armstrong replaces Nir Bitton.
Source: BBC Football Read Original Article: Late Dembele winner sends Celtic into Scottish League Cup final