‘Relentless’ Celtic to meet Rangers in League Cup Final as Hoops bid to retain trophy
MANAGER Ange Postecoglou described his Celtic team as “relentless” after they secured their place in the final of the Viaplay Scottish League Cup with a 2-0 win over Kilmarnock on Saturday.
After Ibrox’s 2-1 extra-time win over Aberdeen on Sunday, they meet Rangers in the decider, with both Glasgow sides facing rigorous testing in their respective semi-finals.
It is the seventh final in nine seasons for the Hoops, who have won the previous six finals they have appeared in, including a 1-0 win over their 2019/20 city rivals.
The Gers, meanwhile, are hoping to get their hands on the trophy for the first time since 2010/11 when they beat Celtic 2-1 in extra time.
Celtic strike late again
On Saturday, the Hoops took the lead after 18 minutes at Hampden Park through a Daizen Maeda try against Kilmarnock.
The Japan striker was in the right place at the right time to fend off a clearance attempt by Kyle Lafferty – in his first return after a 10-game suspension over sectarian comments – past keeper Sam Walker.
However, Killie gave Celtic a hard time in horrendous conditions at the National Stadium as Rory McKenzie, Joe Wright and Christian Doidge tested Joe Hart while Danny Armstrong shot into the side netting.
Reo Hatate and Maeda had ruled out offside attempts, the latter denied after a VAR check while Walker was at full steam to turn an Aaron Mooy attempt around the post.
Killie will rightly be upset that they were not awarded an injury time penalty when substitute Giorgos brought down Giakoumakis Wright in the box.
To add salt to the wound, the Greece striker struck from close range moments later to seal the win, turning the loose ball home after Walker saved David Turnbull’s effort.
“We will fight it out”
It was another crucial late goal for the Hoops and manager Ange Postecoglou said afterwards that he demands such commitment from his players.
“We want to be a team that tirelessly strives for success,” he told Celtic TV.
“It’s a requirement at this football club and the boys delivered once again when it mattered.”
He added: “The conditions, the pitch, it wasn’t great for us to play our football, it made it really difficult.
“But like I said, we talked about it before the game and if we have to fight it, we will fight it.
“It’s important that we’re in the final after the game is over.”
Roofe seals Ger’s victory
Meanwhile, Rangers needed extra time to prevail against six-time winners Aberdeen.
Fashion Sakala hit the post early before a Bojan Miovski goal was ruled out for offside.
Miovski put the Dons ahead just before half-time but Ryan Jack equalized after an hour after his shot deflected away Celtic defender Liam Scales on loan.
Aberdeen faced an uphill battle after playing all of extra time with 10 men, captain Anthony Stewart getting his marching orders minutes before the full-time whistle for a longing challenge at Fashion Sakala.
Shortly after the restart, James Tavernier hit the bar with a deflected shot before Kemar Roofe deflected a cross from Scott Wright in the fourth minute of extra time.
Former Celtic player Jonny Hayes, Scales and Hayden Coulson made good saves from Allan McGregor but the 10 men couldn’t find the equalizer they needed to force penalties.
Rangers and Celtic return to Hampden to battle for the first title of the season in the Viaplay League Cup Final on Sunday 26th February 2023.