Celtic Football Club of Scotland
Celtic stormed into a fifth straight domestic Cup final under manager Brendan Rodgers as three second-half goals beat Scottish Premiership leaders Hearts 3-0.
Scott Sinclair’s penalty and two goals in six minutes from James Forrest and Ryan Christie set up a potential Old Firm final showdown with Steven Gerrard’s Rangers or Aberdeen, who meet in the other semi-final later on Sunday.
“We just said at half-time to show a bit more going forward, open up and move the ball a bit quicker,” said Rodgers.
“Once we did that, we really opened up and showed our qualities and ended up disappointed we maybe haven’t had five or six goals.”
Over 60,000 fans crammed into Murrayfield, normally the home of Scottish rugby, after an ill-judged plan to stage both semi-finals on the same day at Hampden was shelved.
Hearts have been in fine form so far this season, opening up a five-point lead at the top of the league table.
But an early injury to top scorer Steven Naismith robbed the Edinburgh side of their most potent weapon and they were unable to contain the Scottish champions after the break.
“I think the penalty is very, very soft. It changed the feeling of the game,” said Hearts boss Craig Levein.
“I feel disappointed, we had such a massive support today and we never really got to play to our potential.”
Sinclair was also introduced as an early substitute due to an injury to Eboue Kouassi and the Englishman made no mistake from the spot after Oliver Bozanic tripped Christie inside the box.
Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal left his side with a mountain to climb when he fumbled Christie’s long-range effort 18 minutes from time and Forrest gratefully tapped home the rebound.
Moments later Christie left Zlamal helpless with a sensational left-footed effort that curled into the top corner from outside the box.
Hearts’ Czech ‘keeper made amends with a series of late saves, notably from Forrest and Kieran Tierney to keep the score down.
But Celtic marched on into another Cup final after back-to-back domestic trebles of Premiership, League Cup and Scottish Cup in Rodgers’ first two seasons in charge.
“Once we get the goal, it really helped us because Hearts have then got to come up and it opens up space for us,” added Rodgers. “It’s a great performance and it gets us into another final.”