CELTIC battled through to the League Cup Final in appalling conditions at Hampden against a spirited Kilmarnock side thanks to something of a freakish first-half goal from Daizen Maeda and a late clincher from Giorgos Giakoumakis.

Here are five talking points as Ange Postecoglou moved a step closer to retaining the first trophy of his reign as Celtic manager.


The big Northern Irishman was always likely to make himself part of the story at Hampden upon his return from a 10-game ban for using sectarian language, and as has become the norm for him lately, it was for all the wrong reasons.

Predictably, the Killie forward was taking pelters from the huge Celtic support, and he must have wanted the sodden Hampden pitch to open up and swallow him whole as he chalked up what amounted to an assist for Celtic’s opening goal.

The free-kick delivery to the back post by Aaron Mooy was a good one, but Lafferty should have dealt with it. Instead, he showed a fatal lack of awareness as he tried to blindly help it behind for a corner, only for Maeda to sneak in and re-divert the ball into the top corner off his chest.

Beyond throwing himself to the deck a couple of times in a futile attempt to win free-kicks, the forward’s impact on the game in a positive sense for Kilmarnock was negligible, and he was unsurprisingly replaced by Christian Doidge at half-time.


This was perhaps the biggest game that the young left-back has been trusted in by Ange Postecoglou, and even then, his selection was more down to circumstance than merit. The injury to Greg Taylor and the poor performance of Josip Juranovic as an auxiliary left-back against Rangers at Ibrox meant that he was handed an opportunity.

It has to be said, he didn’t really grasp it. From the off, the Argentinian looked uncomfortable up against Killie’s Danny Armstrong, who got past him twice with ease in the opening minutes. He was fortunate from the first of those instances that Kyle Vassell’s outstretched toe just couldn’t get to Armstrong’s low cross to give Kilmarnock a shock opener.

He got off the hook too when Armstrong snuck round the back and passed up Killie’s biggest chance of the day, slicing wide from close range at an admittedly tightening angle. All-in-all then, it wasn’t a great evening for Bernabei, and the return of Taylor next week will be a welcome one for Celtic.


The introduction of VAR in Scotland has proved about as popular as Lafferty would be if he popped into the Brazen Head for a quick post-match pint, but credit where it is due, it did intervene correctly here to rule out a possible second goal for Celtic.

For anyone not of a Kilmarnock persuasion, that was something of a shame, because it was a beautifully crafted move put together by Celtic that ended with a clever Kyogo reverse flick being stroked into the top corner by the on-fire Maeda.

Alas, Kyogo’s heel was in an offside position when he received the ball from Callum McGregor, so while Celtic certainly feel that a few big VAR calls have gone against them of late, they had no cause for complaint here.


It would perhaps be pushing it to say that Killie deserved more from the game given Celtic’s domination of the ball, but there will no doubt be a touch of regret in Derek McInnes’s changing room after this one. His men certainly had their moments.

McInnes’s gameplan and shape worked far better than last Saturday at Celtic Park, and they had chances. Rory McKenzie brought out a fine low save from Joe Hart in the first half after a slack Starfelt pass, and Doidge also tested the Celtic keeper after the break. Then there was Armstrong’s chance, when the Killie support rose as one to acclaim what looked a certain goal before the sinking realisation that the ball had met the side-netting.

Alas, as they pushed men up the pitch in desperation late on, they were caught out by a swift Celtic counter-attack that ended with David Turnbull’s shot being parried out to Giakoumakis, who tucked the ball into the empty net.

In the end, the second goal was maybe a little harsh on the Rugby Park side, though Celtic could rightfully claim they deserved to win.


The surface at the national stadium has been much maligned in the past, but with Queen’s Park having vacated the stadium – except for a couple of games back in December – it might have been expected that the surface would be in better nick than it appeared here.

In fairness, it had been chucking it down in Glasgow for the best part of three days – at least - in the lead up to the game. But the park didn’t take long to start chopping up, and when added to the swirling wind and rain, the conditions didn’t exactly help the players produce much in the way of slick, passing football. Well, apart of course from the Maeda goal that was ruled out for offside.

It will be interesting to see how it holds up when Aberdeen and Rangers return to the national stadium this afternoon for the second semi-final.