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Sunday 19 November 2017

Brown hails Celts' strength-in-depth

Celtic’s Moussa Dembele (right) celebrates scoring his side’s third goal with team-mates Mikael Lustig and Stuart Armstrong during the Betfred Cup semi-final win over Hibernian at Hampden Park, Glasgow on Saturday.
Celtic’s Moussa Dembele (right) celebrates scoring his side’s third goal with team-mates Mikael Lustig and Stuart Armstrong during the Betfred Cup semi-final win over Hibernian at Hampden Park, Glasgow on Saturday.

Celtic captain Scott Brown saluted his team's strength in depth after three substitutes made a major impact in a 4-2 Betfred Cup semi-final win over Hibernian on Saturday.

Despite concerns from some fans over the effects of an energy-sapping 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich in Germany last Wednesday night, Celtic cruised to a 2-0 half-time lead at Hampden with right-back Mikael Lustig hitting a double and the holders controlling possession.

Hibs got back in it with the help of a double substitution at half-time and a generous penalty award from Kevin Clancy, which Anthony Stokes converted, but Moussa Dembele also netted twice after replacing Leigh Griffiths.

Shape

James Forrest had a hand in both of Celtic's second-half goals while fellow substitute Tom Rogic played the killer pass for Dembele to wrap up the victory late on.

On the preparations for the game, Brown said: "It was all right, we got a day off on Thursday to chill and relax and let our legs feel normal again. We got back to understanding our shape in training on Friday. You are always going to feel a bit of fatigue but we got subs on that gave us a bit more momentum in the second half.

"Jamesy came on and Tom, who is always nice and relaxed on the ball and composed, and Moussa is always a goal threat. The size of him scares defenders and he holds the ball in and gives us a different way to play. Griff's pace in behind scares defenders so it's two totally different strikers that we've got."

The victory extended Celtic's unbeaten domestic record to 60 matches but they face one of their toughest domestic tests under manager Brendan Rodgers on Wednesday when they travel to Aberdeen, who are level on points with the champions at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership.

Brown said: "Every game is going to be a tough test. People want to beat us and stop the record we are creating. We have got a great group of lads and we want to push it on as long as we can.

"It's not all about that though, we enjoy playing football. The way we are playing is enjoyable and we have a great manager in charge who wants us to play and dictate our tempo.

"If teams come and press us we can use Moussa, we can use Tom, and we can use the out-ball to Lustig as well. We can mix and match as well."

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and captain Scott Brown after the game
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and captain Scott Brown after the game

Hibs had got back into the game a second time when Oli Shaw made it 3-2 seconds after coming on in the 70th minute, and the 19-year-old was delighted with his first goal for the club.

Shaw said: "I didn't have time to think about it, I just thought, 'Hit it straight away'. Thankfully it went over Craig Gordon's leg and went in the net. It was massive coming on against Celtic in front of 40,000. You don't get much bigger than that. I enjoyed the experience and I can't wait for more.

"I found out I was on the bench about an hour and a half before kick-off. All my family were up in the stand so it was a proud moment for my mum and everyone."

Celtic face Motherwell in the final of the competition on Sunday November 26 after they beat Rangers yesterday.

Louis Moult scrambled home from a 52nd-minute corner and produced a stunning first-time lob to seal a 2-0 victory and a return trip to Hampden to face the Bhoys.

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