Wednesday 21 February 2018

Celtic rise above training-ground bust-up to ease into last four

Hearts 1 Celtic 2

Jeremy Wilson

Celtic shrugged off the cuts and bruises of their Lennoxtown bust-up as they delivered a knock-out blow to Hearts' League Cup ambitions in this quarter-final at Tynecastle.

The Hoops' pre-match preparations were overshadowed by a training-ground incident which left Emilio Izaguirre requiring hospital treatment following a violent clash with team-mate Nadir Ciftci.

But there was no sign of disharmony in the Parkhead ranks as they ground out victory, despite a disjointed display.

Leigh Griffiths had been a frustrated spectator for much of the match but showed lethal composure to slot his team ahead on 71 minutes before creating the second, finished off by Tom Rogic's clever back-heel 10 minutes later.

Arnaud Djoum headed a late consolation effort for the Jambos but it is the cup holders who will now take their place in Monday's draw for the last four.

Despite having had stitches inserted in an ear wound following his brush with Ciftci, left-back Izaguirre was recalled to Ronny Deila's starting line-up in place of the benched Kieran Tierney. It was a tough one for the 18-year-old having been Celtic's top performer in Sunday's 5-0 romp over Dundee United.

Morale was high at Hearts, who had been unbeaten in five games, but chances were at a premium for the first hour.

Osman Sow thought he had given the hosts the lead after 63 minutes when he prodded the ball home after Juanma knocked down a deep free-kick, but he was offside.

That scare was just the thing Celtic needed to shake themselves into action. Griffiths produced the spark they needed as he wriggled past Jordan McGhee and Igor Rossi before stroking his finish past Neil Alexander.

Once ahead, the Hoops went for the kill. Griffiths stunned a long ball with a perfect first touch, skipped past Morgaro Gomis on his way to the by-line before picking out Rogic to flick home at the near post.

Ciftci was thrown on for the final five minutes but managed to keep his nose clean, while Djoum's header from a stoppage-time corner was too little too late for Robbie Neilson's side.

Irish Independent

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