Celtic made to work for Falkirk win
Celtic were made to work hard for their place in the Scottish League Cup final as they defeated Falkirk 3-1 in an entertaining semi-final at Hampden.
Gary Hooper had already seen his 11th-minute strikeruled out for offside before Scott Brown put the Hoops ahead from the penalty spot after Darren Dods had brought Thomas Rogne to the ground in the 26th minute.
Falkirk, who had defeated holders Rangers and fellow Scottish Premier League side Dundee United on the way to the semi-final, were not overawed by the occasion and got themselves level through Jay Fulton in the 40th minute following a fine move.
Fulton missed a great chance just after the break before Anthony Stokes restored Celtic's lead with a curling free-kick ten minutes after the break. Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster made a couple of crucial saves before Stokes tapped in his second goal against his former club in the 86th minute as the Hoops progressed to face Kilmarnock in March's final.
Falkirk had started on the front foot with Keiran Duffie not far away with an early effort from distance. Moments later Kallum Higginbotham went on a surging run before picking out Farid El Alagui, but the Moroccan sliced his first-time effort wide of Forster's post.
Celtic soon settled into the game and had the ball in the net in the 11th minute. Michael McGovern tipped a curling shot from Brown on to the post before Hooper rifled the rebound in to the roof of the net, but his effort was chalked off for offside.
Falkirk were again rattled six minutes later when Rogne got on the end of James Forrest's looping corner and saw his bouncing header crash off the crossbar. Things got worse for the Bairns in the 26th minute when Brown gave Celtic the lead from the penalty spot after veteran defender Dods hauled down Rogne from a corner.
Falkirk got themselves on level terms in the 40th minute. David Weatherspoon broke at pace down the left wing before picking out Higginbotham, who sent a defence splitting pass to Fulton with the 17-year-old sending the ball into the net through Forster's legs.
The first division side then had to do without manager Steven Pressley in the second half after he was banished from the dugout following an angry outburst, while Ki Sung Yeung replaced Emilio Izaguirre at the break.
Falkirk were presented with a great chance to take the minutes after the restart when the impressive Higginbotham found the unmarked Fulton at the back post with a cross, but the teenager blazed his half volley over the bar from eight yards.
Celtic began to up the tempo and McGovern was the hero again when he tipped Rogne's strike from a corner on to the crossbar before the danger was cleared. However, the keeper could do nothing to prevent the Hoops going ahead in the 56th minute when Stokes curled a superb free-kick into the bottom right-hand corner from 25 yards.
With ten minutes remaining Forster twice made crucial blocks to keep Celtic in front as he stopped Dods' volley before getting up to save Stewart Murdoch's follow-up effort. Stokes made sure of the win four minutes from time when he tapped in his second from four yards out after great work from strike partner Hooper.