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Hampden in the sun was the venue for tonight’s cup final as Celtic were looking to make history by winning the trophy for an unprecedented thirteenth time and fourth consecutively against a Dunfermline side currently steeped in turmoil and looking for a shining light amidst their current administration wracked season who were looking to win Scottish youth footballs showpiece event for the first time since 1988.
Aside from an anomalous fourth round result for the Pars when they put ten past Montrose without reply both sides route to tonight’s game had been incredibly hard fought with Celtic edging past Hearts, Hibs and Kilmarnock all by a single goal whilst Dunfermline’s quarter and semi-final wins were 3-2 affairs against Inverness Caledonian and St. Mirren respectively so all the early signs were pointing to a close game.
Dunfermline kicked off playing from left to right and were immediately on the attack and a long ball over the top in the opening seconds caused confusion between Celtic’s Italian goalkeeper Leonardo Fasan and his defenders but the loose ball was cleared by Michael Miller before any damage could be done.
The first real chance of the game came after eight minutes when Dunfermline’s Blair Henderson broke into the box and drove the ball left footed across the danger where it found Scott Mercer who shot first time but Fasan was just able to get a foot out and send it spinning into the air before it was cleared.
Dunfermline were continuing to give a good account of themselves and their front line of Mercer, Henderson, Allan Smith and Alex Whittle were showing some deft touches but they were being continually rebuffed by the green and white back rear-guard whilst Celtic winger Paul George was seeing a lot of the ball was often able to swing it into the box.
The hoops first real chance came of 24 minutes when a corner from the right was initially blocked but the loose ball was returned swiftly and found Jackson Irvine rising above everyone else to glance a header goal wards and only a majestic one handed save from Ryan Goodfellow stopped the scoreboard rattling as he tipped the effort over the bar.
Stuart Findlay was having a magnificent game from the heart of the Bhoys defence and, with his team playing such a high defensive line, was able to dictate a lot of the early play from around the half way line whilst also making several timely interventions early on.
On the half hour mark Dunfermline gained a free kick on the left of the Celtic box and right-back Ross Millen stepped up to deliver a beautiful in swinging ball only for his opposite number Darnell Fisher to usher it around the post for a corner and, having defended it successfully, it was Fisher in the opposition box twisting and turning but his right footed drive trouble neither goalkeeper or defence as it flew past the near post.
Fisher was yet again making a nuisance of himself down the right as he found time and space to shape his cross this time but Chris Kane timed his intervention well and the change in possession sent his side up the park where Smith found himself free but his effort failed to trouble Fasan and, aside from a couple of unimpressive corners by the hoops, that was the last action in what was a very tight first 45
Half Time: Dunfermline Athletic 0-0 Celtic FC
The Pars still looked like a side who’d taken three SPL scalps this season as they set up for the second half and Smith had the first shot of the half before Celtic streaked up the other end and with their first attack of George twisted Grant Munro inside out like a pretzel before delivering beautifully for Bahrudin Atajic to send his header goal wards only to see if smash off the face of the left hand post.
However Jamie Lindsay only had eyes for the ball as it bounced loose in the box and he met the ball on the bounce to send a well struck half volley past Goodfellow and into the net and give the bhoys the lead on 53 minutes.
Up again minutes later the combination of Lindsay and Atajic streamed forward through the middle this time with Lindsay riding two challenges before playing in his counterpart and looking for the return ball but Atajic was always looking to shoot and his effort was blocked before it cause any damage.
Lindsay would have another chance when he met the ball on the bounce twenty five yards out but his shot was well held before Dunfermline had their best chance of the half so far when Christopher Kane met Millen’s corner but glanced his header wide.
Dunfermline were far from buried here and were still showing touches of class and when first half sub Ross Drummond played in Mercer down the right it took a confident save from Fasal to push his effort wide and only concede a set piece.
Celtic weren’t to be denied though and on seventy nine minutes a period of dominance ended with a superb cross from Callum McGregor on the left that was met perfectly by Atajic who glanced his header past Goodfellow to double his sides advantage.
Less than a minute later though Dunfermline had clawed their way back into it with a superb slaloming run and shot from Smith resulting in the net bulging at the other end to make it 2-1 with ten minutes to go.
Some might have questioned Hoops coach John Kennedy when he chose to replace the talismanic George directly afterwards with the match so finely poised but the introduction of Denny Johnstone would prove to be inspired as, with his first touch, he met yet another cross from the left at the far post and headed it back across goal to restore Celtics advantage with six minutes remaining.
That seemed to put paid to the pars valiant resistance as they appeared unable to pull themselves back into the game and Celtic were happy to wait out the clock whilst resting on a two goal advantage, four minutes of injury time came and went and, as the referee blew for full time, it was Celtic yet again who’d created another little bit of history.
Full Time: Dunfermline Athletic 1-3 Celtic FC