Scottish Cup Semi-Final Round-Up: Saturday 14th April 2012

 

 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor 

 

 

Leigh Griffiths struck late on for Hibernian to take them to next month's Scottish Cup final at the expense of Aberdeen


 

A late goal from Leigh Griffiths gave Hibernian a 2-1 semi-final victory over Aberdeen that keeps alive their dream of ending a 110-year wait to win the Scottish Cup.

Garry O'Connor stabbed Hibs into a third-minute lead from close range and the Edinburgh side deservedly went into the break with their lead intact. Rory Fallon's fantastic, looping volley squared the game after 59 minutes as reward for the Dons' response. But Wolves loanee Griffiths slotted the semi-final winner with five minutes remaining. The late strike from the on-loan Wolves striker born a stone's throw from Hibs' Leith home sets up a 19th May final against either neighbours Hearts or holders Celtic, who play at Hampden Park in the other semi-final later in the weekend. Hibs' first win over Aberdeen in five meetings delivered more cup misery on the Pittodrie side, who have not won at the national stadium for 12 years.  

With Lewis Stevenson suspended, Hibs manager Pat Fenlon brought Jorge Claros into midfield as he looked to build on two unbeaten games that have eased their relegation fears in the Scottish Premier League. The Dons were without cup-tied midfielder Gavin Rae and, despite last week's fine 3-1 win over Dundee United, manager Craig Brown went with the physical presence of Rory Fallon instead of the speedy Darren Mackie up front. Kari Arnason also came into the starting line-up.

When Mark Reynolds blocked Leigh Griffith's shot and the ball broke wide for Pa Saikou Kujabi, Arnason and Andrew Considine both failed to pick up O'Connor as the striker steered home the full-back's low cross after three minutes to give Hibs the lead. It was a poor bit of defending all round, with goalkeeper Jason Brown failing to cover the near post with his body never mind glory, although television replays suggested O'Connor had been offside.

The Dons had more possession and there were muted claims for a penalty which referee Willie Collum was quick to ignore when Considine was clipped by Paul Hanlon following a corner, but generally they were laboured in their build up. Aberdeen levelled in style when Fallon controlled the ball on his chest 25 yards from goal before looping a volley over Stack's head. Stack had to be replaced with Mark Brown after 72 minutes as the Hibs goalkeeper picked up a leg injury and the replacement was tested by a low drive from Dons substitute Mackie. Griffiths fired against the outside of the near post with a low drive when the Hibs striker would have been better shooting across the goalkeeper. However, when the striker was put through on goal by a neat O'Connor pass, he showed the composure to this time roll the ball into the far corner from 12 yards.

Click here to watch the post-match interview with Hibernian manager Pat Fenlon

Click here to watch the post-match interview with Aberdeen boss Craig Brown

Click here to watch match highlights from Hampden Park

 

Beattie (above left) hit the hammer blow into the Celtic coffin at Hampden Park with the winning penalty minutes from time to send Hearts to the final

 

Craig Beattie's stoppage-time penalty for Hearts knocked out holders Celtic to set up a first Edinburgh derby Scottish Cup final since 1896.

The former Celtic striker was dramaticaly handed the chance when Marius Zaliukas' shot came off Joe Ledley's hand. Rudi Skacel had fired Hearts into the lead two minutes after the break. Gary Hooper looked offside as he headed the equaliser with three minutes left, but Beattie's spot kick ended Celtic's hopes of a league and Cup double.

It sparked fury on the Celtic bench, with manager Neil Lennon confronting referee Euan Norris about a penalty that itself looked harsh after the final whistle, as Hearts celebrated reaching the final against Hibernian on 19th May. Both sides had gone into the game seeking their third straight win, but Lennon was forced into one change, with a mouth infection ruling out Adam Matthews, meaning a rare start for Sweden right-back Mikael Lustig. Stephen Elliott was given the nod up front for Hearts, with Beattie only regarded fit enough for the bench and Gary Glen dropping out the squad completely, and was given given an early chance to prove his sharpness.

He intercepted a poor back pass from Kelvin Wilson but had his shot blocked by goalkeeper Fraser Forster at point-blank range. Celtic started to pick their passes and a Kris Commons free-kick found Lustig, who ought to have done better than head over from eight yards at the back post. Hooper glanced a header across the face of goal following a fine curling Charlie Mulgrew cross. Commons was handed a great chance to score when Webster was short with a back-pass, but the Scotland winger miscontrolled his attempt to round goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald. Somehow the Edinburgh side survived unscathed until the break after a pinpoint cross from Georgios Samaras found the diving head of Ki Sung-Yeung, but the ball rebounded off the inside of the post and clear. Hearts manager Paulo Sergio made a change at the break, with Beattie replacing Scott Robinson. The former Swansea and West Brom striker made an impact within 70 seconds, his pass deflecting off Wilson into the path of Skacel, who rounded Forster and fired into the roof of the net. Skacel forced a full-stretch diving save from Forster with a powerful drive from 20 yards and fired another just wide.

Celtic were looking more dangerous with Anthony Stokes on for Samaras and the substitute's low drive tested MacDonald. Ki had another great chance with a header but found the outside of the post from five yards after being found unmarked by Commons, whose next free-kick was clawed away by MacDonald. The goalkeeper saved superbly following a Mulgrew header and Stokes could only aim the rebound across the face of goal from two yards. However, the pressure finally told when Mulgrew's cross found Hooper, who headed home from 10 yards when the striker had a yard start behind the defence. It was Celtic's turn to feel aggrieved moments later when Zaliukas' shot deflected off the arm of Ledley and Beattie drove the penalty down the centre and into the net. Ledley almost made amends with a back-post volley that MacDonald managed to hold and send Hearts into the final. 
 

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