Celtic had the opportunity to lift their seventh successive trophy under Brendan Rodgers against an Aberdeen team that hasn’t won a major honour since Derek McInnes’ first season in charge – coincidentally, it was the League Cup.
What says it all about Celtic’s midfield three’s form of late, is that captain Scott Brown or Olivier Ntcham, despite being fully fit again, couldn’t make their way back into the starting 11. As for Aberdeen, their only real cup selection headache came up front with Sam Cosgrove being chosen to lead the line.
Celtic (4-1-4-1): Bain, Lustig (c), Boyata, Benkovic, Tierney, McGregor, Forrest, Rogic, Christie, Sinclair, Edouard
Aberdeen (4-2-3-1): Lewis, Logan, McKenna, Considine, Lowe, Ball, Shinnie (c), Mackay-Steven, Ferguson, McGinn, Cosgrove
Celtic could’ve been ahead before the final had even begun
The first chance came early on. Celtic’s captain for the day, Mikael Lustig, bombarded into the Aberdeen half before playing up the line for James Forrest. One of numerous Celtic players in form, he fed inside towards Tom Rogic.
The Australian looked to take it on from long distance, as he so often does, and sent a wicked effort smashing off Joe Lewis’ right hand post. Nobody would have really been surprised had the playmaker found the net, we’ve seen it time and time again from his left foot.
Rogic looked to return the favour when he slid through to Forrest minutes later but, despite having his fellow winger Scott Sinclair free to square it to, Forrest opted to go alone and dragged his shot horribly wide. It appeared he perhaps didn’t know whether to shoot or pass.
Aberdeen’s opportunities came thereafter
The Dons first chance came following Filip Benkovic being dispossessed in a wide position. Niall McGinn deflected into the path of Sam Cosgrove, who played inside towards Graeme Shinnie who sent McGinn racing away down the right hand side. With Gary Mackay-Steven in the box, he instead cut back to Dominic Ball on the edge of the area with the ball trickling to find the midfielder. However, he showed why he’s a defensive minded player, ballooning his effort over the bar.
Lewis Ferguson, who cemented the Dons’ place in the final from a corner that Niall McGinn delivered, couldn’t quite repeat his heroics despite getting the better of Ryan Christie at another inswinging corner courtesy of the Northern Irishman, narrowly heading over.
The man for the big occasion
However, Ryan Christie would have the last laugh of the first half against the club he was on loan at last season. In stoppage time, Dedryck Boyata sent a long ball forward and following Christie getting in behind Graeme Shinnie, the young Scot was able to take it down superbly before sending a right footed effort straight at Joe Lewis.
However, he would get a second bite of the cherry as Aberdeen failed to clear. He was first to react and sent the ball high into the net, this time with his left foot. This put the Hoops ahead and totally changing both manager’s team talks at the interval. Celtic’s semi-final hero showing his recent scintillating form once more.
A moment of controversy in the second 45
In the second half, Christie looked to dink in behind for Rogic. His pass was to be stopped following a downwards header from Dominic Ball on the edge of the area. However, a spot kick was given after Ball was adjudged to have nodded onto his hand.
He certainly did but it was outside the box and unintentional, a debate therefore arising if it was a spot kick or not. Andrew Dallas thought so and Scott Sinclair would have the chance to put the Hoops two ahead without reply.
Aberdeen were incensed and rightly so. They did however have their goalkeeper to thank for keeping them in the tie. Scott Sinclair looked to bury it to his left but Joe Lewis made himself big. He was somehow able to turn it behind following a dive to his right hand side. Superb goalkeeping, a real reason as to why Aberdeen hadn’t conceded in the competition prior to the final.
The keeper also saved from Filip Benkovic. The Leicester City loanee decided to shoot from distance, as he didn’t see any real movement in front of him. It was a good strike but another decent save from Lewis, and the game was far from over.
A moment of madness
In fact, Aberdeen were close to an unorthodox equaliser. Jozo Simunovic replaced the injured Dedryck Boyata, and his first touch was a deflection after he’d intercepted Niall McGinn. The Croatian sent his tackle onto the crossbar, as Scott Bain looked on.
Two challenges from Shay Logan weren’t enough. Callum McGregor carried the ball from deep in his own half, before sending Sinclair through on goal at the end of a lung-bursting run.
The Englishman was perhaps sent too wide after a poor first touch. He then tried to dink over Lewis, unfortunately it didn’t dip under the crossbar. Looking back, he may have been able to square for Edouard but Celtic hadn’t killed the game off.
In the end it didn’t matter as the favourites lifted the trophy. Aberdeen, however gave Celtic a closer game than many had anticipated. In the end, they were haunted by a former loanee. It appears as though nobody can stop the Hoops domestically just yet, seemingly on their way to a treble-treble.