Rodgers and Celtic keep tre­ble dream alive

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Soccer - EWAN MUR­RAY at Ham­p­den Park

Rarely has the gulf be­tween these clubs looked so stark. Cal­lum McGre­gor had put Celtic ahead af­ter 11 min­utes and Scott Sin­clair dou­bled the lead early in the sec­ond half. With half an hour of this semi-fi­nal to play, the only dan­ger to the cham­pi­ons lay in their own minds. Only com­pla­cency could have de­nied Bren­dan Rodgers a vic­tory over Rangers that, for long spells, was so blissfully straight­for­ward.

Only Aberdeen and the Scot­tish Cup fi­nal now lie be­tween Rodgers and a do­mes­tic tre­ble in his first sea­son in Scot­land. The North­ern Ir­ish­man would be­come only the third man­ager in Celtic’s his­tory to achieve such a feat. His op­po­site num- ber at Rangers, Pe­dro Caix­inha, must search for a new plan be­fore Celtic visit on Satur­day.

From the out­set here, Rangers were woe­fully pas­sive; a late flurry of ac­tiv­ity to­wards the Celtic goal never looked likely to res­cue the tie. Celtic sealed a Ham­p­den re­turn with­out ever be­ing forced into any­thing like op­ti­mum form.

Celtic’s first half had been marginally up­set by the en­forced with­drawal of Moussa Dem­bélé be­cause of a ham­string in­jury. By that point, the pro­lific French striker had played a part in the open­ing goal of the game. Dem­bélé col­lected a lofted pass from Mikael Lustig be­fore swiv­el­ling and play­ing the ball to the feet of McGre­gor. The mid­fielder calmly passed the ball be­yond Wes Foder­ing­ham.

Celtic’s sec­ond ar­rived via a swift counter-at­tack. The out­stand­ing Patrick Roberts fed Leigh Griffiths, whose charge to­wards goal was il­le­gally halted by James Tav­ernier. Sin­clair needed the in­side of a post for assistance with his penalty but cared lit­tle; to all in­tents and pur­poses this was game over af­ter just 51 min­utes.

Griffiths had a half-vol­ley bril­liantly saved by Foder­ing­ham and Dedryck Boy­ata some­how headed over from point-blank range as Celtic looked to fur­ther press home their supremacy. Rangers’ best re­sponses came via Kenny Miller, be­fore Tom Rogic was de­nied a Celtic third by the wood­work.

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