Celtic 3—0 Raith Rovers.

Celtic play St Johnstone, the holders, at Hampden in the semi-final. I’m old enough to remember when Raith Rovers beat us in the League Cup in 1994. After the dismal defeat at Livingston, the most important thing wasn’t our performance, but quite simply we win.

 Anthony Ralston comes in, Josip Juranovic drops to the bench, as does Stephen Welsh and Bolingoli. Only Carter-Vickers retains his place in the back-line that lost at Livingston. The much maligned (by me) Starfelt comes back to partner the American international. Adam Montgomery, who I think is our best option, plays on the left with man-on-the-match Jota.

Jota scored in just under 30 minutes. A few minutes earlier, Turnbull had an early free-kick from the edge of the box, which hit the wall. A poor effort. But McCarthy played in Jota, inside the box and he took it on and scored his first goal for Celtic. McCarthy was a surprise selection. He was so poor on Sunday, he wouldn’t have gotten into the Livingston team. Tonight he got pass marks, because his passing was better.

Jota created the second, just before half-time, cutting in and driving it at goal.  MacDonald palms the ball up into the air and Abada in 40 minutes, nipped in and headed the ball into an empty goal. Against a lower division team that had seen little of the ball this should have been game over—and so it proved to be.

David Turnbull picked up the ball and drove at the Raith box, he bent the ball into the net, but McDonald was poor. Three minutes into the second-half, it’s just a matter of how man Celtic will score.

Zanatta booked after a foul on Rogic, and minutes later it’s from yellow to red as he chopped down Ralston on the touchline. Two soft bookings, but he’s off and with half-an-hour to go. We expect to see Giakoumakis—even for this Celtic defence, the game was over.

 But Liam Scales made his Celtic debut. He comes on alongside Josip Juranovic, for Ajeti and Abada. Bitton and Soro replace McCarthy and Rogic. The game peters out with no Greek striker.  Ange Postecoglou explained why, in his post-match interview. Giakoumakis had injured his calf in the warm up, and left for hospital at half-time. Perhaps a cautionary scan and we’ll see him against Dundee United? Ajeti remains our only fit striker, and is holding the line. Playing Jota through the middle didn’t work as was shown here tonight. We lost much of our attacking flair with him in the centre, and he didn’t look comfortable. But needs must. The semi-final is at Hampden. I’m not sure that counts as an away game. With our recent record… well, you know as well as me. Wait and see what Celtic team turns up.  Hopefully, an all-green final before Christmas.  

St Johnstone 2—5 Celtic.

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This was a terrific game with Celtic players scoring all seven goals. Dedryck Boyata scoring a terrific headed own-goal for St Johnstone after Celtic had opened them up several times, with a goal from Liam Henderson in the first five minutes. This continues a recent trend in which Celitc’s so called fringe players come in and not only do they do a job, they frequently end up man on the match. Stuart Armstrong was first to pick up the baton and push his way into the first team, playing so well, and scoring goals he was easily first pick for the midfield. Ryan Christie’s cameo’s before heading off on loan to Aberdeen had you wondering why they let him go. Callum McGregor who replaced Armstrong, when the latter got injured in the warm up against Hearts, came in and scored an absolutely exquisite first goal. But Boyata until recently seemed so far out in the Arctic cold a place on the bench was the most he could ask for, but came in and was outstanding, before yesterday’s defensive debacle scoring decisive goals for Celtic in the previous two victories before the Saint’s game. Remember this is the same player that bottled it in a Scottish cup semi-final against Rangers, an almost unforgivable sin, and whose distribution seemed amateurish at best.

It wasn’t a good game for Celtic’s defence yesterday. Too often they lost balls in the air. After scoring first and equalizing for the Saints they were at it again. Perhaps Nir Biton needs reminded he’s six-foot five. He was outmuscled and outjumped by Saint’s Keith Watson. Scott Brown in trying to keep the ball out headed it into his own net. Brown is another player that has come good this season. The much lauded Craig Gordon was poor yesterday. He had no hope of saving any of the goals conceded, but too many times tried to play football when a punt up the park was called for. Most notably in an exchange on the touchline with Boyata. His defensive partner Erik Sviatchenko was poor for a different reason, he didn’t impose himself on the game.

With Celtic 2-1 down, but still playing terrific football, it could have been anybody’s game. Under Deliah it would have been Saint’s. Celtic bring on  MOUSSA DEMBELE who scores a hat trick in half-an-hour with almost his only three kicks of the ball. Job done. The man he replaced Gary Mackay Stevens had a decent game, showing nice touchline skill, but missing three sitters. Unlike for like. Scott Sinclair added to his usual goal a game average. Celtic played some scintillating football. A joy to watch. The move for the fifth and final goal had some many intricate passes if you were tying your shoelaces your shoes would end up as ear muffs, with even Michael Lustig contributing a ‘Rabona’ (whatever that is) in the Saint’s box, McGregor back-heeling and Dembele finishing after every Celtic player including Gordon and half the Celtic crowd behind his goal contributing by taking a touch or making a pass.

The big question of whether it was a penalty is easily answered. The referee pointed to the spot. Celtic had enough in the tank to bring on Nadir Cifti. Remember him. Maybe our next £30 million player. Anything seems possible under Brendan Rodgers. Leigh Griffiths, Tom Rogic and Stuart Armstrong all need to work their way back into the team. We’ve bought somebody for a couple of million and we’ve not even seen him yet. Still unwrapped. Another gift.  Changed days indeed. But this is a reminder that sloppy defending can cost us the treble.