BRENDAN RODGERS will be guarding a 100 per cent record at Hampden as he prepares his Celtic players for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen on Saturday.

It will be the fourth time the Northern Irishman has faced the Dons at the national stadium.

And Rodgers goes into the encounter after three consecutive victories over the Pittodrie club during his first stint at Parkhead.

The 51-year-old gaffer lifted his first piece of silverware as Celtic boss when he guided the team to a League Cup success over the north-east outfit in November 2016 – just six months after his appointment as Ronny Deila’s successor.

DEBUT CLEAN SWEEP…Brendan Rodgers holds aloft the Scottish Cup after completing his first campaign with all three domestic honours.

On the last day of an extraordinary debut campaign – with the Premiership added to the earlier Cup win – Rodgers eyed the domestic clean sweep in the Scottish Cup Final against Derek McInnes’ men.

Author Alex Gordon highlighted the achievement in his tribute book ‘CELTIC: TREBLE TREBLE‘ which was published in 2019 to celebrate the club’s nine successive silverware triumphs.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, here is Alex’s analysis of an unforgettable grand finale at Hampden. Please enjoy!


May 27 2017


Scorers: Armstrong, Rogic

A MIGHTY thunderclap boomed over Hampden at the precise moment Tom Rogic slid the ball between Aberdeen keeper Joe Lewis and his near post to seal Celtic’s first treble in sixteen years.

As the ball smacked off the back of the net, the tumultuous, crackling crescendo heralded the magical moment from the Wizard of Oz whose tantalising footwork had carved open the back-tracking rearguard as a nerve-riddled confrontation edged two minutes into stoppage time with an exhausting period of extra-time looming.

The sun had shone through the clouds at the kick-off for the Scottish Cup Final on the Saturday afternoon of May 27, 2017, but, as an enthralling encounter was played out at the national stadium in the Mount Florida district of Glasgow, the wayward and changeable weather conditions merely added to the drama and unpredictability of a tense occasion.

NINETY MINUTES FROM HISTORY…Back Row (left to right): Craig Gordon, Leigh Griffiths, Jozo Simunovic, Dedryck Boyata and Scott Sinclair; Front Row: Stuart Armstrong, Mikael Lustig, Callum McGregor, Scott Brown, Kieran Tierney and Patrick Roberts.

The contest had not started well for the champions. In the ninth minute, a corner-kick was swept in from the right by Niall McGinn and his swirling cross eliminated Jozo Simunovic and Mikael Lustig as it carried on to the inrushing Jonny Hayes, who escaped the attention of an unaware Leigh Griffiths.

The Republic of Ireland international winger caught it perfectly on the drop with his left foot. He belted an unstoppable effort beyond the exposed and alarmed Craig Gordon. Kieran Tierney’s goal-line heroics in an attempt to deflect the shot went unrewarded.

It was all-square within two minutes when Callum McGregor, cutting in from the right, shrugged off a couple of rugged challenges to present a pass in front of  Stuart Armstrong and the smooth midfielder provided the perfect response with the equaliser, rifling a low left-foot drive from the edge of the box across the sprawling Lewis and into the far corner.

As the minutes ticked away, referee Bobby Madden was already looking at his watch with the scoreline still deadlocked at one goal apiece. Celtic had incessantly battered away at the Dons rearguard since the turnaround, but Lewis, with some fine saves and courageous defending from his colleagues in front of him, had yet to yield a second goal.

DELIGHT AND DESPAIR…Stuart Armstrong is about to be congratulated by Kieran Tierney after netting Celtic’s quickfire leveller. Future Hoops star Jonny Hayes, scorer of the Dons goal, looks on in dismay. 

And then the lean and languid figure of Rogic came sharply into focus, dancing menacingly towards the danger zone. Brendan Rodgers called the Australian player “The Magic Man” and the Canberra-born personality decided to live up to his manager’s boast. No threat was imminent as he eased with nonchalant grace onto a pass from Armstrong.

He ambled forward before an unexpected spurt of acceleration saw him weave away from Anthony O’Connor as he carried into the penalty area. A shimmy of the hips flummoxed Andy Considine before the Aussie playmaker spied a vulnerable spot between Lewis and his near upright. That was all he needed as he carefully placed the ball into the inviting area.

Nature’s forces combined to applaud the individualistic effort and the Scottish Cup was on its way to the east end of Glasgow to keep the Premiership and the League Cup company in the Celtic Park trophy cabinet. An extraordinary undefeated campaign had been completed.

History had been made with virtually the last kick of the ball.

TAKE AIM…Tom Rogic pulls back his right foot as he prepares to strike Celtic’s Scottish Cup winner.

WIZARD OF OZ…Tom Rogic yells in triumph as keeper Joe Lewis and his defenders are left helpless.

The unassuming Rogic reflected afterwards: “Scoring that goal? It’s hard to put into words. I picked up the ball and just tried to be positive, the space opened up for me and it was a very special moment.

“It’s not about me, but the goal was something you dream of. It’s been a long season. To do what we have done in going unbeaten, winning the treble on the last day of the season in the last minute it was an unbelievable moment for everyone.”

Former Liverpool manager Rodgers was drenched as he stood on the touchline while his players cavorted with glee. In his first campaign, the Irishman had led the club to a forty-seven game unbeaten sequence against Scottish opposition earning his team the tag The Invincibles.

As the raindrops cascaded from the heavens, he said: “We’ve created an identity this season and, hopefully, we can build on that and improve over the coming years. What we have achieved has been really spectacular.

“Maybe the stars were aligned this year. I remember the Centenary Year for Celtic and there’s just a feeling about this season. But don’t get me wrong, we’ve had to earn it. We’ve worked hard.

GLASGOW BELONGS TO ME…Brendan Rodgers proudly holds the newly-won Scottish Cup.

“It’s a huge honour. I think what the players have achieved and you see how difficult it is, the great history of this club and the great managers and players who have been here before me.

“To have achieved that in the first season, along with everything else that we’ve done is very humbling.

“I still get a wee bit of a funny feeling, it doesn’t sit quite right with me. Jock Stein was a real pioneer in leading the club where they wanted to go. Martin O’Neill did an incredible job here.

“History will judge me and I’ve only just begun, so when I leave here people will look at what I did. It’s been truly enjoyable. It’s a really special feeling today.”

Even the Celtic manager could not have scripted the heartstopping events at the national stadium before the glittering prize was handed over to his Invincibles.

TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney (sub: Rogic); Brown, Armstrong; Roberts (sub: Sviatchenko), McGregor, Sinclair; Griffiths.

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss RODGERS 3 ABERDEEN 0: Part Three – only in your champion CQN.

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