Celtic seal final spot with Dons destruction

Celtic kept their triple treble quest firmly on course as they swept nine-man Aberdeen aside 3-0 to book a place in next month’s William Hill Scottish Cup final.

The Dons had been holding their own at Hampden until they lost Dom Ball to a second yellow card after a gruesome clash of heads with Ryan Christie.

Celtic quickly made the most of their man advantage as James Forrest fired them ahead in first-half stoppage time.

Odsonne Edouard’s penalty and precise finish from substitute Tom Rogic rubbed salt into Pittodrie wounds as the Reds also had Lewis Ferguson sent off.

Derek McInnes had been looking to lead Aberdeen into his fifth final as boss but both he and his assistant manager Tony Docherty finished the game watching from the stands as they also lost their discipline on the touchline in the face of a green and white onslaught.

Hoops interim boss Neil Lennon will now look to boost his chances of landing the post permanently by wrapping up the club’s third straight domestic clean sweep when they take on final opponents Hearts on May 25.

Lennon’s record at Hampden with Celtic was mixed after notching up six wins and five defeats from his previous 11 visits during his first stint in charge of the Hoops.

Neil Lennon has a Scottish Cup final date with Hearts to look forward to (Steve Welsh/Handout)
Neil Lennon has a Scottish Cup final date with Hearts to look forward to (Steve Welsh/Handout)

But an upset never looked likely this time as Celtic started like they meant business.

Defender Jozo Simunovic was the unlikely early threat but saw two decent chances evaporate as the Dons were forced to weather an early storm.

It took Aberdeen 36 minutes to finally conjure a chance as Greg Stewart released Ball down the right, with his cross finding Sam Cosgrove who hooked wide with a volley.

But within seconds the game took a major swing in Celtic’s favour as Ball got his marching orders. Already on a booking for a trip on Forrest, he was shown a second after his head cracked against the cheek of his former Pittodrie team-mate Christie in a sickening collision.

While Ball trudged down the tunnel, there were worrying scenes as medics rushed to attend to the stricken Celtic player.

Christie was placed in a neck brace before eventually being carried off on a stretcher after a five-minute hold-up.

Ryan Christie leaves the field on a stretcher (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Ryan Christie leaves the field on a stretcher (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Rogic took his place while McInnes was forced to rejig his own plans as forward Stevie May made way for defender Michael Devlin.

Aberdeen’s reaction to the restart was quicker and they almost snatched the lead as Ferguson headed wide.

But it was Celtic who made the breakthrough 75 seconds into the six minutes of added time. Forrest collected a short pass on the right from Callum McGregor then gave Max Lowe the slip with the dip of a shoulder before smashing an unstoppable drive past Joe Lewis.

The Dons keeper was forced to block with his feet as Forrest burst through again looking to put the game to bed before the delayed interval.

But Celtic refused to relent as the action resumed. There was a let-off when Lowe cleared a McGregor shot off the Dons line but the clincher came from the penalty spot just after the hour mark.

Devlin got caught ball-watching as Mikael Lustig threw a cross into the box. Unaware Jonny Hayes was lurking behind him, he instinctively threw out a hand, hauling down the Irishman to leave referee Craig Thomson with no choice to award the penalty, which Edouard converted for his 20th goal of the season.

Aberdeen’s day went from bad to worse on 67 minutes as Ferguson was next to go after diving in to Rogic with a disgraceful two-footed lunge.

The Australian took his revenge in the only way he knows how as he bounced up to fire home number three from the resulting free-kick.

Lustig fired into the wall but the ball rebounded straight to Rogic who calmly took a touch before sending a sweet finish into the bottom corner.

- Press Association

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