Celtic scrape through for Old Firm final

Australian striker Scott McDonald was the hero as his penalty clinched a place for Celtic in the Scottish League Cup final after a shoot-out with Dundee United ended 11-10 at Hampden on Wednesday.

It was McDonald's second penalty of the shoot-out, after the semi-final had finished 0-0, and came after Willo Flood sent his second crashing over Artur Boruc's bar. Boruc had already saved from Lee Wilkie while Lukasz Zaluska saved from Glenn Loovens. Despite the lack of goals during normal play, the match was full of action with both teams playing fast, free-flowing football.

The win sets up an Old Firm final after Rangers defeated Falkirk in Tuesday's semi-final. Celtic manager Gordon Strachan said he had never been involved in a game like it. "Considering the surface, I thought it was a terrific game of football," Strachan said. "Both managers will be satisfied with their players, but I had the ones who could take penalties a bit better. I was confident that we had enough ability and mental strength to win it."

United manager Craig Levein said his side had done everything they could to win it. "I thought we were excellent tonight and the only disappointment is that we lost the match," he said.

The game started at a frantic pace and Celtic had a chance with less than a minute gone. Shunsuke Nakamura's cross from the left was pushed out by Lukasz Zaluska only as far as Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, but the striker's weak shot was cleared by Gary Kenneth. Then a minute later, Flood, a target for Celtic in the transfer window, ran past several defenders before he forced Boruc into a good save from a low shot.

In the sixth minute, Nakamura made room for himself in the box and his cross had to be cleared off the line by Flood. Warren Feeney's header from a vicious Kenneth cross from the right was inches away from giving the Tangerines the lead after 11 minutes. The Northern Ireland international then turned provider when his pass played in Francisco Sandaza, but the Spaniard didn't connect properly with his shot which went straight to Boruc.

I was confident that we had enough ability and mental strength to win it.
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan

In the 32nd minute Lee Wilkie hooked away a Lee Naylor cross from the left before McDonald could get his head to it. Craig Conway then found Sandaza in the box with a free-kick from the left, but the Spaniard's header sailed just by the post. After 38 minutes Glenn Loovens rose highest in the box to meet a Nakamura cross from the right-wing, but he put his headed effort well over the bar.

Zaluska, who will join Celtic this summer, had to be alert to parry away a powerful Scott Brown drive from the edge of the box after 43 minutes. The Polish keeper was called into action again two minutes into the second-half when he had to stretch to tip a curling Nakamura free-kick from the right over the bar.

Sandaza should have done better with a chance in the 67th minute, but the striker fired a volley high over the bar from 12 yards out after initially controlling it with his chest. Eight minutes from full time, Celtic fans were screaming for a penalty when substitute Barry Robson went down in the box, but referee Calum Murray waved away his appeals.

The game headed into extra time and, with 95 minutes gone, Wilkie had to stretch to knock Georgios Samaras' cross out for a corner, under pressure from McDonald. Both Samaras and Nakamura hit the side netting with shots in the 104th minute when they should have found the target.

In the 108th minute, Flood raced past Gary Caldwell and Loovens and angled his shot across Boruc, but it bounced by the post. With a minute remaining, Samaras thought he had clinched it for Celtic, but his looping header crashed off the underside of the bar and out.