Sunday, 18 March 2012

Spoiling The Party

65th Scottish League Cup Final, Hampden; Celtic 0, Kilmarnock 1

Celtic’s attempt to win their first League Cup in three years, and take the first leg of a first treble in 11 years foundered as Kilmarnock blunted the Celtic mid-field before scoring 6 minutes from time through a close range header from Belgian substitute Dieter Van Tornhout.  That goal did not prove to be the end of the drama as Celtic claimed for a penalty in the last minute – referee Colum correctly adjudging that Stokes had dived and booked him for that act.

Celtic started the brightest and really should have taken full advantage of the gift handed to them when Sissoko passed straight to Hooper, only to see his shot saved by the keeper Bell.  Bell would go on to have an inspired match, as he made another impressive save later on in the first half from a Stokes header.  His best save though came before half time as a Brown piledriver was tipped over.  Replays showed that Bell’s save kept the ball from sneaking under the bar.

Though Celtic had chances, they were not imposing themselves on the match.  This was partly down to Kilmarnock’s 5 man midfield – which saw Harkins and Shiels venture forward to support Heffernan when Kilmarnock had the ball but both tuck into midfield whenever Celtic had the ball.  As a result Celtic looked sluggish in midfield and did not really inject any impetus into their play until the final quarter of the match.

Kilmarnock’s best chances to score came at the start of the second half.  A Shiels run into the box ended with him shanking his shot way past the target, while moments later a Sissoko header went wide. Celtic then looked at going up a gear, with Stokes and Wanyama having chances, while Mulgrew drove into the box but had his shot smothered by Bell.  With six minutes left Gordon released Johnson down the Celtic right, his cross was just too far for a couple of Killie forwards, but found Van Tornhout (above) at the back post, who headed in from close in.

Celtic now chased urgency as well as an equaliser.  Substitutes Samaras and Commons had chances before Stokes big moment at the end of the game.  Stokes burst through, but kept hold of the ball rather than go for the early shot.  Nelson put in a careless challenge that Stokes looked to have ridden, then fell down.  It was a brave decision by Collum, but a correct decision.  Seconds later Kilmarnock won their first trophy since their famous Scottish Cup win in 1997.

Kilmarnock deserved their win.  They set their team up to stifle Celtic’s midfield and to attack quickly when in possession.  For Celtic, the dream of a first treble in 11 years is gone, they can however still win a first double since 2007 – starting with a potential title clinching win at, of all places, Ibrox next Sunday.

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