ALLOA 1 CELTIC 2: BATTERED AND BRUISED, BUT ABADA’S BELTER DOES THE TRICK

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ALLOA 1 CELTIC 2

CELTIC made sure they avoided a potential Scottish Cup banana skin as they were clattered and battered by bruising opponents at the Indodrill Stadium tonight.

On the day the trophy holders St Johnstone crashed out to Kelty Hearts, the Hoops were careful not to figure in the list of the competition’s most sensational setbacks.

First-half goals from Giorgos Giakoumakis and Liel Abada eased Ange Postecoglou’s men in direction of the fifth round although the encounter against the third-tier team was not without problems.

Skipper Callum McGregor, Liel Abada and Yosuke Ideguchi were all forced to come off with injuries against rivals who appear to have prepared to for the meeting on a diet of raw meat. Lenient referee Don Robertson failed to take control of an unruly confrontation with the home side thumping carelessly into every challenge.

NUMBER ONE…Giorgos Giakoumakis (above and below) first-times Liam Scales’ left-wing pass into the Alloa net for the breakthrough goal.

Within two minutes, some sloppy play from Anthony Ralston was seized upon by veteran striker Connor Sammon who tried a lobbed shot from distance in an effort to catch Joe Hart off his line. Thankfully, the elevation from the former Republic of Ireland international was out by a few yards and the ball carried over the bar.

And it was Sammon v Hart again in the 37th minute when McGregor almost gifted him with the opportunity to claim the equaliser.

The Hoops skipper was way off target with a passbook to Stephen Welsh and the much-travelled hitman, who numbers Hearts, Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle among his former clubs, latched onto the wayward ball.

He took it in his stride to lash a vicious left-foot drive at goal, but the keeper was alert to the danger and managed to block the effort as his captain breathed a huge sigh of relief.

THAT’S MY BHOY…Liam Scales congratulates Giorgos Giakoumakis after the opening goal.

It wasn’t McGregor’s night and he had to be replaced before the interval following a clash of heads. He was obviously groggy as he got back to his feet and Postecoglou, looking at a run of crucial games coming up fast, took him off to send on James McCarthy.

The Hoops had eased the tension in the 14th minute when some clever intricate play between the skipper and Ideguchi on the left opened the way for Liam Scales to fire in an inviting ball at the near post.

Giakmouakis thundered in to hit the ball first-time on the drop from six yards and keeper David Hutton didn’t stand a chance as the effort bulged the net behind him.

Remarkably, the £2.5million Greek frontman had the chance to double the scoreline only a minute later when he took advantage of some hesitancy in the home defence, but on this occasion the bustling forward got his angle wrong and rolled the ball wide of the left-hand post.

Daizen Maeda was better placed for a pass and a simple tap-in, but his team-mate went for glory and blew the opportunity.

WALLOP…Liel Abada (extreme right) sends the ball hurtling into the roof of the Alloa net for the second – and winning – goal.

A WING AND A SLAYER…Liel Abada celebrates his brilliant winner.

However, Abada did get the second goal in first-half stoppage-time when he cut in from the right, played a pass, picked up the rebound and simply riffled an unstoppable left-foot drive from 18 yards into the top right-hand corner of Hutton’s net.

It was the little Israeli winger’s ninth strike of the season and it’s doubtful if he will score a better one. It really was a thing of beauty.

He was foiled right at the start of the second-half when the shotstopper clawed away a right-wing cross that was sneaking in at the near post, but the winger’s game ended abruptly after a clash with Muhammed Diang.

Abada went down and it was clear he would not be fit to continue and Filipe Jota came on in the 52nd minute.

HAPPY DAZE…Liel Abada celebrates with a message for the fans.

Diang was again involved 16 minutes later when he followed through on a tackle on Ideguchi. It was a dreadful over-the-top studs-up challenge and that was the end of the contest for the Japanese with Nir Bitton takig his place.

Remarkably, match official Roberston was content to show a yellow card for the assault. It wasn’t the only decision the whistler got wrong on an evening that descended into a hacker’s paradise where pushing and shoving and wayward tackles went unpunished.

Celtic should have put the game to bed, but Giakoumakis headed tamely into the hands of Hutton after a superb left-wing delivery from Scales and Maeda also saw a header brilliantly saved by the keeper low to his right-hand post.

The Japanese international also missed the target on two occasions when in a good position and the nerve ends were jangling when Sammon threw himself at a right-wing cross to bullet a header wide of the helpless Hart in the 78th minute.

Postecoglou’s men hadn’t been clinical enough when they had been in command and they were forced to nudge the game to a conclusion without conceding again.

The manager didn’t smile at the full-time whistle and after watching his players subjected to some wayward treatment throughout the encounter it was easy to see why the Greek-Australian wasn’t exactly overjoyed with his introduction to the national trophy.

TEAM: Hart; Ralston, Welsh, Starfelt, Scales; Abada (sub: Jota 52), Rogic, Ideguchi (sub: Bitton 68), McGregor (sub: McCarthy 44); Maeda, Giakoumakis.

 

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