The Scottish Cup final delivered in dramatic fashion, a 3-3 draw over 120 minutes between Celtic and Hearts, settled on penalties as the Hoops sealed the quadruple treble.
A clinical first-half put things just about out of sight for Hearts, Ryan Christie scoring first before Odsonne Edouard’s paneka penalty all coming before the half-hour mark. The Jambos showed character, getting one back through Liam Boyce before a bizarre scramble got them back level. Things went to extra time and Leigh Griffiths scored a thought-to-be winner, Josh Ginnelly levelling to allow this blockbuster tie to go penalties, Celtic winning in the end after two missed Jambo kicks.
Looking to claim their fourth Scottish Cup in 22 years, this would arguably be their most remarkable feat. Celtic were huge favourites in this as the Premiership team, although their form of late provided Gorgie hope.
That was dashed inside 28 brutal first-half minutes. Neilson had his side set up defensively and it didn’t pay off, Christie picking up the ball 25 yards out from goal and bending it past Craig Gordon 16 minutes in.
If that wasn’t an already tough blow to take, another was to come 12 minutes later. Christophe Berra’s handball in the box was easily spotted by referee John Beaton, Edouard sumptuously chipping it down the middle and in.
Robbie Neilson was left looking at a mountain to climb in the second half, Steven Naismith’s tangle with Conor Hazard the closest they came to scoring . It couldn’t have started any better, Aidy White breaking down the left and finding a free Boyce in the middle, who buried his big moment.
Now the cup final had life again and Ginnelly missed a huge chance shortly after his arrival on the park. A horror mix-up at the back allowed the winger in on goal, Hazard making the stop.
This had flipped on its head and now Hearts had the momentum. A second goal was to come in the most bizarre of circumstances, a corner crossed in, battered around the box, before Stephen Kingsley managed to squeeze it over the line, Hawkeye technology needed to assess whether it did cross the line or not.
How quickly does football change, the game heading into extra time with Hearts now the team disappointed that this was heading into extra-time. However, it was, and they did well to get there.
It was a cagey affair with both teams clearly knackered, the game looking like two boxers in the 12th round throwing slug shots at each other. A knockout blow was to come, former Hibs man Griffiths turning in a Celtic corner. Neilson’s side had nothing left to give, running on empty as the clock ticked down. They still managed to muster strength.
A free-kick into the box was missed by Hazard, Kingsley heading it back before Ginnelly made up for previous missed chances by putting it in at the back post. It sent the game to penalties, Steven Naismith and Griffiths opening proceedings. They were picture perfect until Ryan Christie made Gordon work, the Gorgie stopper making a stop before Hazard saved Kingsley’s penalty, Craig Wighton’s next to be stopped. Kristoffer Ajer scored his to seal Celtic ecstasy and Hearts agony. Here are three things we learned.
Hearts set up defensively for this, similar styles to the ones St Johnstone and Ross County used recently to trouble Celtic. But it wouldn’t have the same rewards for the Jambos at Hampden in the first half.
Two fairly early goals had Celtic in control and Hearts needing to come out with few threats in front of goal during the first 45. White and Boyce sparked things into life after 47 minutes before the attacking cavalry arrived from the bench, a second goal arriving before extra-time. More drama ensued before Hearts were broken.
Goals change games
You couldn’t have predicted the contrasts in mood at half-time. Celtic were dominant and cruising, making the Premiership to Championship gap look apparent. But it soon flipped with a quick second half goal.
Then Hearts took the reigns of ascendency, getting back on level terms superbly with guts and courage. Yet it still wasn’t enough in a sickening blow, just falling short of the biggest prize.
Celtic Hearts one to remember
Where do we put this cup final in one of the greats, at least in the modern era? Many regard the 1991 final between Motherwell and Dundee United to be one of the best in modern history.
But with this one having goals, drama, comebacks, controversy and more, it’s definitely rivalling the game from over 30 years ago. The Jambos will be left distraught after this one.
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