Celtic sweep aside woeful Aberdeen to reach CIS Cup final

Any lingering Hampden Park ghosts were exorcised by Celtic within 34 ruthless minutes.

Celtic sweep aside woeful Aberdeen to reach CIS Cup final This venue housed Neil Lennon's most harrowing occasion as the Celtic manager, Ross County inflicting a Scottish Cup semi-final defeat on them last season. But Celtic's return to Hampden proved perfectly straightforward for Lennon.

Kris Commons, Charlie Mulgrew, Anthony Stokes and Thomas Rogne had this League Cup semi-final settled 11 minutes before the interval. The prospect of an Old Firm final on 20 March remains, with Rangers facing Motherwell tomorrow for the right to meet Celtic.

This tournament is generally regarded as the lesser of Scotland's two knockout competitions. Still, it has special value for Lennon as he looks to claim his first honour in management.

Not even a dreadful playing surface could hamper Celtic's touch. That pitch had triggered headshaking from Lennon before kick-off. The manager had little with which to concern himself thereafter. The meekness of what they were up against here must be taken into account, but Lennon's desire to see his team display a clinical edge appears to be finally bearing fruit. Celtic are in fine fettle heading into a tantalising week that will see them face Aberdeen again, away from home, on Tuesday before they head to Ibrox for a Scottish Cup meeting with Rangers.

You would have thought Aberdeen were beyond capitulations such as this. Celtic were competent and clinical in the opening period yet nowhere near as impressive as three days earlier, when they eased past Hearts.

Lennon's cause was therefore aided by how utterly abject the north-east side were, particularly in defence. Aberdeen had lost 9-0 to Celtic in November but a subsequent change of manager has steadied things at Pittodrie. Craig Brown, who enjoyed a successful time at Hampden when in charge of the Scottish national team, could only look on in horror. Brown's predecessor, Mark McGhee, would observe that mental fragility is not always wiped out by fresh management.

Commons's desire to be known as a valuable Celtic player, rather than one who spurned Rangers to sign up at Parkhead, was aided by virtually his first touch in green and white. The debutant brilliantly chipped Jamie Langfield in the Aberdeen goal with five minutes played; at that stage, though, there was little indication of what was to follow.

Mulgrew, a former Aberdeen player, nodded home at close range after Rogne had knocked a Commons corner into his path. Celtic's third followed a similar pattern, Mulgrew lobbing to the back post with Rogne heading past Langfield.

An act of blatant stupidity from Derek Young prompted goal No4 and an early exit for scores of Aberdeen's travelling contingent. Young handled a Stokes free-kick inside his own penalty area when there appeared no need whatsoever to do so. Celtic's Irish striker maintained his recent impressive scoring run by slamming home from 12 yards.

It would have been a sad indictment of Brown's players if they had not summoned some sort of response after the break. Scott Vernon duly claimed a consolation goal with a header from Robert Milsom's searching free-kick.

The departure of Rogne immediately after Aberdeen's goal, apparently because of injury, will hasten Celtic's desire to sign a centre-back before the transfer window closes. The Norwegian, bizarrely given Lennon's rapid recruitment of players, started the afternoon as the only fit Celtic player for that position.

If Aberdeen are as dismal on Tuesday, that said, the deployment of an opposition defence may be unnecessary.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ewan Murray at Hampden Park, for The Observer on Saturday 29th January 2011 17.46 Europe/London

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