Rodgers and Celtic keep treble dream alive
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.