Scotland’s cup duopolists, Celtic and St Johnstone, face each other in the League Cup semi-final. They are the two most successful Scottish clubs over the last decade, having won the previous 10 domestic cups between them. St Johnstone have won on their last four visits to Hampden, whereas Celtic have incredibly won their last sixteen successive visits to the national stadium. Something has got to give but the winner of this tie will surely fancy their chances for the trophy.
Hibs, who are the last team to win a cup apart from Celtic and St Johnstone, face Newco in the other semi. The latter hoping to reach their third major final having lost the previous two. Hibs last won the League Cup 15 years ago.
Celtic comfortably got the job done against Raith Rovers last night without ever hitting the heights they reached in the previous round, when Hearts were battered before leaving with a flattering 3-2 deficit. We await a return of that blistering football.
Goals change games and win trophies and it is vital that those occupying the supporting forward roles contribute. Jota got his first goal for the club as he controlled a pass from James McCarthy before beating the keeper at his near post. The Portuguese then turned creator for the second. Raith keeper Jamie MacDonald only parried his shot into the path of Liel Abada, who headed into the net.
Abada has an incredible knack for finding space inside the box and arriving to occupy it at exactly the right moment. 20 years ago, I remember a Rangers fan complain to me that his team continually fail to mark Henrik Larsson inside the box. All he saw was Larsson, in acres of space, despatching the ball into the net.
An innate understanding of space and time, and being able to anticipate what others will do, makes the attackers’ job look easy. It is easy, if you are gifted enough to find the right place at the right time. I know better than to burden Liel with unattainable comparisons, but this ability to find space inside the box has been so rare for Celtic recently, you wonder if he could follow the path others have walked from wing to centre.
If Celtic are to fulfil their potential, they need to be able to spot patterns like this and know what to do about them.