AARON MOOY was just about out on his feet when Ange Postecoglou replaced him two minutes into stoppage-time in Celtic’s 2-0 Viaplay League Cup semi-final win over Kilmarnock.

The Aussie looked shattered as his manager took him off to put on David Turnbull with just four minutes of added-on time to play.

Mooy had run himself to a standstill on a sapping pitch with ice-cold rain pouring down relentlessly from the swollen dark skies above Hampden.

JOY BHOY MOOY…free-kick specialist Aaron Mooy joins in with Carl Starfelt, Filipe Jota and Kyogo Furuhashi in congratulating Daizen Maeda after the first goal at Hampden.

It was an extraordinary performance from the 32-year-old World Cup star who proved Postecoglou absolutely correct to give him the nod ahead of Matt O’Riley for the last-four encounter against determined opponents who ceaselessly launched into crunching tackles in the midfield minefield.

It was Mooy, signed on a free transfer by his former international gaffer last summer on a two-year deal, who looked the most composed Celt on view on a pitch that cut up quickly in monsoon conditions.

Captain Callum McGregor, as ever, patrolled his beat with his usual impeccable grandeur, but it was his middle-of-the-park sidekick who added a bit of much-required gloss to the proceedings.

And it was a swirling free-kick from Mooy that created confusion in the Killie rearguard in the 18th minute that brought the crucial opening goal.

ON THE BALL…Aaron Mooy prepares to launch another raid on Kilmarnock.

The Ayrshire side had taken oxygen from a sprightly and spirited start to the semi-final confrontation and Joe Hart had been compelled to make a superb diving save to thwart Rory McKenzie in only six minutes.

But they were undone when Mooy whipped over a deadball effort from the right that prompted comeback man Kyle Lafferty to swing wildly with his right boot in a bizarre attempt at a clearance.

The ball struck the chest of the menacing Daizen Maeda before ricocheting high past flummoxed keeper Sam Walker for the extremely important breakthrough goal on an evening designed for a disastrous result for the reigning champions.

Mooy was off the pitch when James Forrest released David Turnbull with a swift through pass and the midfielder’s shot was only stunned by the sprawling netminder.

That was all Giorgos Giakoumakis required to snap up the loose ball and clip it into the gaping net. Game over. Now for next month’s Cup Final.

CRUNCH…no holds barred as Aaron Mooy challenges Kilmarnock captain Alan Power for possession.

When the personal awards were being handed out at the conclusion of a stamina-sapping contest, Maeda was given the Man of the Match prize in recognition of another energetic performance and vital strike.

Mooy, though, went largely unnoticed. Not that the versatile engine-room operator was unduly concerned.

Or Postecoglou, too, for that matter.

Celtic take on St Mirren at Parkhead on Wednesday night as the pursuit for Premiership points continues.

The name of Aaron Mooy is more than likely already pencilled into the manager’s starting line-up.


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