The Week In Scotland – The Scottish Cup Edition
Scottish Cup Semi Final Weekend
Yes, it was that time of the season again, where Hampden is half empty if the game doesn’t involve one of the Old Firm. The Saturday semi was contested against Aberdeen and Hibs in what was the pinnacle of both their seasons. Indeed, Hibs are still involved in the SPL relegation battle.
Hibs went 1-0 up after 3 minutes when Kari Arnason simply went to sleep when marking Garry O’Connor, and the Hibs #9 took advantage of the free space in the six yard box to score his 15th goal of the season. Aberdeen’s goalkeeper Jason Brown didn’t exactly cover himself in glory either, leaving a gaping space at his near post for O’Connor to aim at. Hibs went in at half time having had the better of the play.
Rory Fallon scored a goal of the season contender for Aberdeen in the 59th minute. You’ll struggle to see a better goal this weekend, that’s for damn sure! He controlled the ball on his chest 25 yards from goal before looping a stunning volley over Graeme Stack’s head in the Hibernian goalmouth. The shot was simply unstoppable.
Leigh Griffiths scored the winning goal for Hibs with five minutes to go as he raced clear of the Aberdeen defence and slotted the ball past Brown into the far corner to send the Hibs fans into raptures. Hibs haven’t won the Scottish Cup for an outstanding 110 years, perhaps this year is their year?
In the Sunday semi 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.
Celtic had enough chances to finish the game in the first half but Hearts arguably went closest to scoring early on in the game when Stephen Elliott went through on Fraser Forster but his shot was blocked at point-blank range. Rudi Skacel sent the Jam Tarts into the lead in the 47th minute when Craig Beattie’s shot rebounded off Kelvin Wilson into the path of Skacel, who coolly rounded Forster and stuck the ball into the net.
Celtic forced all their pressure onto the Hearts goalmouth after the lead, and Jamie MacDonald was forced into cracking saves from Anthony Stokes, Ki Sung-Yeung, Kris Commons and Charlie Mulgrew. Celtic eventually scored a controversial goal in the 87th minute when Gary Hooper rose high to header home from eight yards out. The striker was clearly offside but the assistant referee did not assist and the goal stood. Hearts then scored their own controversial goal in injury time as they were awarded a penalty as both Joe Ledley and Victor Wanyama handled the ball in the box. Despite the handball being blatant, it was a case of ball to hand in both instances and it was a harsh decision.
Beattie fired the ball hard and true down the middle to set up an Edinburgh derby in the final.
Neil Lennon’s Reaction After The Game
Unsurprisingly, Neil had something to say after the game and yet again disgraced himself. After referee Euan Norris blew his whistle to end the game, Lennon flew onto the field to confront him in a rage, and sent assistant Alan Thompson to deal with the media.
However, Lennon later posted on Twitter:
“Feel so sorry for players and fans… I think it’s personal myself.”
Neil Lennon needs to grow up. The referee had a terrible game, that is indisputable. However, to suggest that his decisions were a personal attack on either the club or Lennon himself is nothing short of disgraceful and he MUST be taken to task for these comments.
He is already facing three disciplinary cases pending with the Scottish Football Association and is surely going to face a fourth now. Once again his poor attitude has overshadowed other events over the weekend.
Thompson seems to be joining the Lennon school of bitterness as well, learning from the master I assume:
“Decisions have cost us again. He’s gave one that might have been might not have been and he hasn’t given one that might have been, might not have been. So where’s the consistency there?”
Just once, I’d like to see the Celtic management take a defeat in a graceful manner, rather than being bad losers and acting extremely unprofessional. Let’s not forget managers and coaches are role models not only for fans and children, but also to the players under them. Neil and Alan’s attitudes are visibly starting to rub off on the team and should a decision go against them on the field, the team are starting to enter Man Utd early 2000′s levels of behaviour towards the man in the middle.
Sort it out Neil.
Stop Using Hampden for Semi Finals
In order to get as much money as possible, the SFA try to hold as many events as possible at Hampden. Makes sense. But there’s nothing more soul destroying as attending a game at the national stadium if it isn’t close to full. Due to the distance between the stands and the pitch, it can be extremely hard to get a good atmosphere in the stadium unless it’s close to full.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to Hampden a few times when it’s full, especially for Scotland games. There is no atmosphere quite like a bouncing Hampden at full capacity, and I’ve seen the likes of Spain and Holland visibly surprised at the noise and emotion emitting from the stands, known as the Hampden Roar. I’ve also been to games where less than 15,000 have been to a stadium that holds 52063. It is soul destroying and you actually can’t wait to get out of the stadium.
A trip to the national stadium should be something special, a once in a season achievement for clubs rather than potentially four times a season.
On Saturday, only 28,278 people attended the game. Understandable due to the distance for Aberdeen fans, but for Hibs fans it’s not too far away. On Sunday, with one half of the Old Firm, only 36,609 attended. Semi finals should always be held at neutral venues in my opinion, with the exception of a Celtic-Rangers game for obvious reasons.
Let’s look at Celtic-Hearts. Motherwell’s Fir Park is roughly midway between Glasgow and Edinburgh and holds 13,742. Not a lot, but the atmosphere would have been much better had it been spilt 50/50. For Aberdeen-Hibs, the game could have been held at Tynecastle, or even one of the Dundee stadiums.
It’s more of a personal bugbear, but I really hate Hampden unless it’s full.
Congratulations to Ross County, who sealed promotion to the SPL this week! They will be a welcome addition to the SPL and the Staggies will bring a cracking support and fantastic brand of football to the Premier League.
Well done lads!
***Did I miss anything? Got something for me to add in next week? Any comments to either please me or destroy my soul? Post below or find me on Twitter @Manky365***