Celtic find themselves in the Viaplay Cup final after seeing off a battling Kilmarnock. A goal in each half saw the holders book their place as VAR had a busy day, with two goals ruled out and a huge penalty claim turned away in the dying stages.
Kilmarnock started brightly – Danny Armstrong caused problems for Hoops’ left back Alexandro Bernabei and Rory McKenzie went close after six minutes when Carl Starfelt gifted him the ball and he proceeded to hit a low driven shot which was parried away by keeper Joe Hart.
Just before the ten minute mark, the league leaders started to come alive and not long after were causing the Killie backline issues, with in-form star Daizen Maeda lofting in a cross, which was cleared after a scuffed effort by Carl Starfelt. It wasn’t long after that Josip Juranovic won a free-kick high up the right hand side which would help put Celtic in front.
Eighteen minutes had passed when Aaron Mooy whipped in the free kick and without knowing much about it, Maeda had put the Hoops ahead. Kyle Lafferty’s attempted clearance whacked off the Celtic forward leaving the underdogs with a mountain to climb.
Lafferty, the former Rangers striker who was playing his first game following a ten-match ban, then tried an outrageous half-way effort and to little surprise found no luck.
It didn’t take long before Celtic ramped up the pressure again as Portuguese star Jota caused the Kilmarnock backline issues, with a low cross which captain Alan Power almost deflected into his own net.
As the second-half started, Derek McInnes made two changes to his side, with Liam Donnelly forced off through injury and Kyle Lafferty subbed to add freshness, with Liam Polworth and Christian Doidge replacing them respectively.
Not long after the restart, Reo Hatate thought he had doubled Celtic’s advantage, however the linesman’s flag went up for offside. This was VAR’s first involvement, which agreed with the original decision and the game went on.
Ten minutes later and VAR was involved again, this time as Daizen Maeda thought he had a double when he slotted it into the top right corner after brilliant build up with Mooy and Jota, who played him through. However, VAR was on hand again, this time to overturn the goal after a marginal offside in the build up against the Premier League’s joint-top scorer, Kyogo Furuhashi.
Kilmarnock tried again and found their best chance to equalise when Kyle Vassell cut in off the left and tried an effort which deflected over to Danny Armstrong who hit the side-netting, albeit with his weaker foot.
With just fifteen left on the clock, Kilmarnock came close again. This time, an effort from Christian Doidge troubled Joe Hart, however he beat it away and Celtic cleared the danger.
James Forrest entered the pitch with ten to go and not long after injected some pace into an attack in which Mooy saw his shot saved well by Sam Walker.
Three minutes into stoppage time, strong shouts from the Kilmarnock end were waved away as they thought they should have had a penalty. Giorgos Giakoumakis brought down Joe Wright in the box, but VAR and the referee gave nothing. Replays showed that Kilmarnock were unlucky not to receive it and in a matter of minutes, it meant nothing.
In the fifth minute of stoppage time, the Greek striker was up the other end to grab Celtic’s second and put the tie to bed when David Turnbull saw his shot saved after being gifted the ball through a sliced Alan Power clearance, killing any hopes of a Kilmarnock leveller.
This is Celtic’s seventh League Cup final in the last eight seasons as they look for more domestic success under Ange Postecoglou. Meanwhile Kilmarnock and Derek McInnes will have to pick up the pieces and move on as they continue to fight against relegation from the top division.