Hoops brush Morton aside to set up Old Firm semi-final clash
Celtic 3 Morton 0
The Old Firm derby is back - and this time it will be a tight call, according to Jim Duffy, whose Morton side were beaten by Celtic in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup yesterday, paving the way for Glasgow's arch-foes to be paired in the draw for the semi-finals.
The resumption of the most enduring rivalry in club football will be staged at Hampden Park on the weekend of April 16-17.
The pair have met only once since the Rangers oldco was liquidated in the summer of 2012. That was at Hampden last year, in the semi-final of the Scottish League Cup, when a struggling Rangers side under the caretaker management of Ally McCoist's former assistant Kenny McDowall lost 2-0 to a Celtic team in the first season of Ronny Deila's management.
Celtic are four points ahead in the Scottish title race and favourites to win the double but Duffy has discerned significant progress in Rangers under former Brentford boss Mark Warburton.
"It will be much closer than it was last year because Rangers have improved," Duffy said. "I will let them fight it out. We play Rangers on Friday so I am not really caring who wins the semi-final. Whoever it is, good luck to them."
Celtic were effectively through by half-time against Morton, when they led by goals from Leigh Griffiths, Gary Mackay-Steven and Allan McGregor. They could have had more after the break, but Patrick Roberts saw a fine effort hit an upright and Mackay-Steven was denied a second by the crossbar.
The Bhoys were watched by their second lowest attendance of the season, a crowd of 14,858 at Parkhead, where the televised game was not part of the season ticket package.
Sparsely attended home fixtures - with the consequent dilution of atmosphere - have proved difficult for Celtic on several occasions on recent years, but Deila's players were never in danger of angering the meagre crowd as they had done with a lacklustre goalless draw against Dundee in midweek.
Deila said: "We could have been playing without any people here today - it was about playing football and bouncing back from a performance we were not happy with. The fans who were here were good. It is a win-win situation if we perform. It's much better to get applause instead of boos, that's for sure."
Rangers' confidence was boosted by a 4-0 quarter-final romp against Dundee, with goals from Harry Forrester, Jason Holt, Andy Halliday and Lee Wallace. (© Daily Telegraph, London)