Celtic make the fi­nal but will Rangers fol­low?

The Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY STE­WART FISHER

BREN­DAN Rodgers was scathing of ref­eree Kevin Clancy and his as­sis­tant Frank Con­nor for award­ing the penalty which gave Hibs a way back into yes­ter­day’s Bet­fred Cup semi­fi­nal against Celtic but praised his play­ers for ris­ing above it to book a place in next month’s fi­nal.

The Park­head side might have been jaded from the mid­week trip to Bay­ern Mu­nich but they were 2-0 up and coast­ing when Dedryck Boy­ata was ad­judged to have caught the on- rush­ing Martin Boyle in the cor­ner of the box, even though he got enough on the ball to di­vert it wide.

An­thony Stokes duly con­verted the spot- kick as Hibs threat­ened an un­likely re­cov­ery but two goals from sub­sti­tute Moussa Dem­bele, which added to an early Mikael Lustig dou­ble, were enough to see the job through, de­spite Oli Shaw’s first goal for the Easter Road club.

Re­cent his­tory is lit­tered with Celtic sides who have failed to show the same poise af­ter ap­par­ently be­ing dealt sim­i­lar of­fi­ci­at­ing in­jus­tices.

“There are two poor de­ci­sions,” said Rodgers. “One from the ref­eree who is on his way back and then he is look­ing for help from the lines­man who is fac­ing it. How he gave the penalty I will never know.

“Any coach or man­ager will tell you t hat, par­tic­u­larly in t he show­piece games, you don’t want a de­ci­sion to go against you be­cause you don’t get the chance to come back again. There are no re­plays, it’s a one-off game. But it asked a ques­tion of us in terms of our com­po­sure and men­tal­ity and the play­ers re­sponded well to get the ex­tra goals.”

The North­ern Ir­ish­man con­ceded that his play­ers had shown tired­ness af­ter their mid- week ex­er­tions. He made just two changes to his start­ing line-up, but paid trib­ute to the con­tri­bu­tion of his sub­sti­tutes, in par­tic­u­lar Dem­bele, who chan­nelled t he f r us­tra­tion of his re­cent ham­string is­sues into two goals.

Rodgers faces a sim­i­lar balanc­ing act when se­lect­ing his team for Wed­nes­day’s top-of-the-ta­ble Pre­mier­ship clash against Aberdeen at Pit­to­drie.

“It was clear there was a bit of fa­tigue in our play but that was only nat­u­ral,” he said. “When you have that it af­fects the tech­nique. So I tip my hat to the play­ers be­cause it could have been a real ba­nana skin for us to­day. When you win, it’s all OK. When you lose, peo­ple say ‘did you pick the right team?’ So thank­fully we won and are into the fi­nal.

“Mou ss a was prob­a­bly dis­ap­pointed in the chang­ing room af­ter­wards, he thought he could have got a third one, but it shows the qual­ity he has. When he is up there he is a goal threat, his fin­ishes were ex­cep­tional and he has that phys­i­cal pres­ence in and around the box.

“At times Mika [Lustig] does a great job for me at cen­tre-half but his best po­si­tion is right full-back. He is get­ting al­most pro­lific.”

Rodgers’ op­po­site num­ber Neil Len­non saw the penalty de­ci­sion dif­fer­ently. “Martin is quick and gets a toe to the ball. It is the first de­ci­sion we get all day to be fair,” he said, adding that he was con­tent that most of his play­ers could hold their heads up high.

“There will be some who’ll have re­grets about to­day,” said Len­non. “But the ma­jor­ity of them left every­thing out there, so that pleases me. They [Celtic] are just a lit­tle bit bet­ter in cer­tain ar­eas. I would rather lose the game 4-2 go­ing for it than let the game peter out 3-2.”

Pho­to­graph: SNS

Moussa Dem­bele cel­e­brates af­ter com­ing off the bench and scor­ing two goals to help Celtic book their re­turn to Ham­p­den next month for the Bet­fred Cup fi­nal

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