SEAD HAKSABANOVIC came within inches twice in six minutes of becoming a goalscoring hero as he picked up his first winner’s medal at Celtic at the weekend.

The Swedish raider was sent on in the 84th minute for the exhausted Daizen Maeda as the Hoops closed in on their second successive League Cup triumph.

Leading 2-1 through a double blast from last season’s matchwinner Kyogo Furuhashi, their Ibrox opponents were launching desperate attempts to get the equaliser and push the game into extra-time.

FOILED…Sead Haksabanovic watches as keeper Allan McGregor blocks his low shot with his foot. Oh Hyeon-gyu gets a close-up view of the action along with Connor Goldson, Ben Davies and James Tavrenier.

Ange Postecoglou turned to the man he signed for a bargain £1.7million from Rubin Kazan in August to take the place of the Japanese dynamo who had, as ever, put in a turbo-charged performance from the first kick of the ball.

Haksabanovic had been on the pitch only five minutes when he was picked out by a laserbeam pass from the impressive Alistair Johnston, also looking for his first honour at the Parkhead club after his January arrival.

The Swede, with fellow-substitute Oh Hyeon-gyu for company, raced forward, twisted and turned and then unleashed a low drive that was netbound until Allan McGregor thrust out a left foot to divert the ball to safety.

In the fading moments, Haksabanovic neatly swept away from Connor Goldson and left the Ibrox centre-back and Ben Davies in his slipstream as he zeroed in on the exposed Govan netminder.

The Celtic half of a sold-out Hampden was prepared to greet the final goal to finally put the encounter to bed, but the attacker hit his shot tantalisingly wide of the far upright before referee Nick Walsh eventually blew for time-up after almost six minutes of stoppage-time.

SWEDE DREAMS…countrymen Sead Haksabanovic and Carl Starfelt parade the glittering prize.

Afterwards, Haksabanovic vowed: “Next time I will score!”

Asked if it had been a problem to get up to speed immediately when he came on, the lively wide midfield operator, speaking to Celtic TV, answered: “It was difficult, but, also, I was born for these games.

“I love games like this, especially Finals or big games. I came on and they were going for 2-2 and they were opened up.

“So, it was easy for me to get in behind and get those chances. Next time I will score.”

Haksabanovic’s immediate focus will now switch to Sunday’s High Noon shoot-out against St Mirren in Paisley, a venue where he and his team-mates fired blanks on a wretched September afternoon during the champions’ only domestic loss of the campaign.

The Swede replaced Liel Abada just before the hour mark, but it was to no avail as Postecoglou’s side turned in their worst display of the season.

Haksabanovic would dearly love to set the record straight on this occasion.

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