Photo courtesy of Malcolm Mackenzie
Celtic have were crowned Winners of the Little Big Shot Youth Cup win a resounding 5-2 victory over Rangers. Lifting the trophy for the fourteenth time and fourth time in five years, an Aidan Nesbitt hat-trick was the different as the Young Hoops stormed to victory.
Reaching the final on the back of a 6-0 win at home to Hibs, in which Luke Donnelly scored four, Celtic also dumped Hamilton Accies, Dundee United and Motherwell out on the road to the final.
Celtic, who missed out on the final last time round, lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation that saw Paul McMullan lead the line behind an attacking trio of Kieran Tierney, Aidan Nesbitt and the competition’s top scorer Luke Donnelly. Connor McManus Jamie Lindsay were the holding midfield two in front of a back four of Sam Wardrop, Stuart Findlay, Eoghan O’Connell and Calum Waters, while Jordan Hart took his place between the sticks.
Speaking after grabbing what he believes to be his first ever hat-trick, an elated Aidan Nesbitt said, “It’s nights like these that you play football for. To score a hat-trick in a cup final, at the national stadium and against your oldest rivals is everything you dream of as a wee boy.”
Nesbitt, who joined the club aged 8, continued, saying“I think that’s my first ever hat-trick so it’s not the worst time to do it! It just motivates you to push on and keep progressing, I’m absolutely buzzing.”
On two goals when Kieran Tierney was upended in the box, Nesbitt commented, “There was no way anyone else was taking that penalty. We actually practised penalties in training yesterday and I missed mine! I knew where I was putting it, so I just had to play it cool and managed to stroke it home.
Delighted Celtic boss Stevie Frail added “I’m absolutely delighted for the lads in that dressing room. They work hard every day and it’s been a long season - especially after the disappointment of losing the league - so it’s nice to finish the season on a high by beating your city rivals in the cup.
“The manager (Ronny Deila) is excited about this group of players, and there is a core of them that are training every day with the first team which can only be beneficial. We now go into the summer, come back refreshed and look forward to doing it all again next season.”
Celtic FC's player ratings
Jordan Hart - 6/10
Recovered well from a shaky start and grew in confidence as the game progressed.
Sam Wardrop 7/10
Confident in bringing the ball out of defence, his tenacity was rewarded with the opening goal of the game.
Calum Waters 6/10
His headed own pale paled into insignificance as his teammates went on to score five.
Stuart Findlay 7/10
Committed centre half who reads the game exceptionally well.
Eoghan O’Connell 6/10
Steady performance from the Irish defender. Relatively untested by a lacklustre Rangers side.
Connor McManus 7/10
Some great driving runs from the captain who was delighted to hold the cup aloft at the end of the night.
Paul McMullan 8/10
Intelligent striker whose burst of pace caused the Rangers back four problems all night. High on confidence following successful development loan with Stenhousemuir.
Jamie Lindsay 6/10
Anchored the midfield well, broke up the very few Rangers attacks and ventured forward.
Luke Donnelly 7/10
The big striker grabbed his seventh goal of the competition after a strong performance.
Aidan Nesbitt 9/10
The hat-trick hero was outstanding all night long. Pace, vision and trickery dazzled everyone in the national stadium.
Kieran Tierney 8/10
Fresh from making his first team debut, Tierney was deployed in more of a midfield role. Set piece delivery was of high quality and won the penalty that completed the rout.