Celtic cruises into League Cup final with 2-0 grinder over Rangers

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The Old Firm rivalry was renewed, but there were few surprises at Hampden as Premiership leaders Celtic went 2-up near the half-hour mark and never looked back.

In their first meeting in three years thanks to the financial troubles of Rangers a few years ago, Celtic struck the opener on 10 minutes and added another after 33 ticks to see the game through.

Leigh Griffiths – up front in place of John Guidetti – marked his return to the striker spot with the opening goal, a header from a cross by Stefan Johansen. Guidetti, a Manchester City loanee, hasn’t scored since November and was dropped by manager Ronny Delia for the rivalry matchup.

Kris Commons doubled the lead just past the 30-minute mark with a blistering strike from outside the box, and Celtic fended off their opponents despite plenty of pressure. The Commons goal was a beauty, with just the right combination of touch and power.

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Virgil van Dijk also stood out in defense as Rangers pushed hard in the second half to get back into the match. He and the Celtic defense held the visitors without a shot on target in the final 45 despite holding much of the possession.

Many expected the match to have a watered-down feel to it after the longstanding rivalry had faced such a layoff and the league cup not providing the same excitement as a typical Premiership match, but the opposite happened, with rivalry-starved fans taking Hampden by full force and volume to express their feelings towards the other side.

The Hampden pitch condition was a talking point for much of the game, with cleats pulling up sections of turf and causing sizeable divots to crop up as the game progressed. Commons was asked about the condition of his home field after the game and had a hilarious response.

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The two sides are facing very different fortunes at the moment, with the events of the 2011/12 season still having a very direct impact on life in the Scottish Premiership. Celtic is enjoying a three-point lead at the top of the table, having won the title in every season since that year.

Rangers meanwhile, are still holding out hope of finding themselves back in the Premiership next season, but they sit in second place in the Championship and have a massive 16 point deficit to make up with Hearts way out in front. Because of the small number of teams, only one team earns automatic promotion from the Scottish Championship up to the Premiership each season, but Rangers can still find themselves in the top flight if they win a playoff between places 2-8 and then win a two-leg playoff with the next lowest finisher in the Premiership.