Maeda's confidence, Hampden chaos: 3 things we learned as Celtic beat Kilmarnock
Celtic are through to the Scottish League Cup final after securing a 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock at Hampden this evening.
It certainly wasn’t a pretty encounter. The Bhoys required spirit and guts to come through brutal conditions with a win but found the route to victory with a deflected Daizen Maeda effort from a Kyle Lafferty howler. Giorgos Giakoumakis then scored in stoppage time to delight fans. Aberdeen or Rangers now await the cup holders in the final, who face off tomorrow.
What are the big talking points from a dramatic 90 minutes? Here are three of ours…
Celtic prevail through Hampden chaos
As mentioned, the weather played a role in the way this game panned out. As rain bucketed down and the wind whirled around the national stadium, it was difficult for either team to have composure and consistency on the ball – especially as the pitch deteriorated.
Celtic managed to control the game in spells and were worthy of the victory, but did have to ride out a few hairy moments up against an energetic Kilmarnock side who threw everything at getting a goal of their own.
It was more evidence, if needed, that Postecoglou’s team don’t just play pretty football, they can dig deep and show determination to win at all costs. Semi-final football is rarely routine.
This type of game can be difficult on the nerves of a supporter, especially in end-to-end phases but ultimately Celtic were always going to find a way to get through this one. That’s just what this group does.
More Maeda confidence
Daizen Maeda was the difference-maker in today’s match, putting himself in the right spot at the right time to capitalise on Aaron Mooy’s deflected set-piece.
In the second half, he also looked the most likely to score before Giakoumakis popped up in injury time. At one point he finished with aplomb before Kyogo Furuhashi was judged to have been very marginally offside in the build-up.
His form since returning from the World Cup has been excellent. He isn’t only just effective off the ball but showing more and more confidence on it. He’s one of our best players at the moment and more than justifying his place in the team.
He now has a chance to shoot up Celtic’s top scorer rankings and hopefully that happens!
Big match experience pays off
Joe Hart, Aaron Mooy and Josip Juranovic were three of Celtic’s top performers this evening and it’s likely no coincidence that they are three of the most experienced players in terms of big-match, knockout football whether it’s for club or country.
Postecoglou made big calls in starting Mooy and Juranovic but his faith was undoubtedly paid back. Hart, too, showed exactly why you always play your first-choice goalkeeper in big games, even if there’s cup designation for others.
This was the right starting eleven for the occasion and it’s helped fire Celtic through to another final under the manager.
Now let’s finish the job against Aberdeen or Rangers – we’ll take on either!
In other news, Video: Massive Celtic pyro display at Hampden.