- Celtic’s 15th League Cup triumph in their 30th final
- Dundee United runners-up for fifth time in seven League Cup finals
- Three United red cards in last two games against Celtic
- Celtic have never lost to United in a cup final in six attempts
- United won just one of last 12 meetings with the Hoops
CELTIC claimed their first silverware under Ronny Deila as their treble hopes remain alive after an assured victory over 10-man Dundee United in the Scottish League Cup Final.
Kris Commons followed up after his initial shot was tipped onto the post by United keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak to make the breakthrough on 28 minutes.
United captain Sean Dillon was sent off 10 minutes after the break for a reckless lunge which caught Emilio Izaguirre high on the leg.
Substitute James Forrest curled home his first goal of the season on 79 minutes and then saw a penalty saved by Cierzniak after he was upended by Paul Dixon.
A 15th League Cup triumph – and first since 2009 – takes Celtic one step closer to a first domestic clean sweep for 14 years and only the fourth of their history in Deila’s debut season in charge after replacing Neil Lennon last summer.
The Scottish Premiership champions had lost on their previous two League Cup final appearances in 2011 and 2012 but – by crushing Hearts, Partick Thistle and Rangers in previous rounds – have claimed the first trophy of the Scottish season without conceding a goal.
In contrast, it is more heartache for Dundee United – who are without silverware since 2010 – following their defeat to St Johnstone in last season’s Scottish Cup Final as Jackie McNamara still awaits a maiden trophy of his managerial career.
The Tangerines – who could not add to their consecutive League Cup triumphs in 1980 and 1981 under Jim McLean – will now be desperate to bounce back in the upcoming double header against Celtic at Parkhead starting with the Scottish Cup quarter-final replay on Wednesday.
The first of four meetings in the space of a fortnight produced an ill-tempered tie at Tannadice last weekend which saw three red cards and two penalties but – after being cleared this week by the SFA – none of the players dismissed were forced to sit out of the first national final held at Hampden Park for two years.
Dundee United’s Calum Butcher and Paul Paton were cleared to play, however, 12-goal top scorer Nadir Ciftci – who scored their semi-final winner against previous holders Aberdeen – was suspended after picking up two yellow cards in the competition.
Dutch striker Mario Bilate deputised while Callum Morris appeared for the first time in a month after a thigh injury and Ryan McGowan occupied a midfield role in a United side which featured six defenders by trade.
In the one Celtic change from last Sunday’s 1-1 draw between the sides, Commons returned from injury to oust James Forrest to the bench as Virgil van Dijk was able to continue in defence.
Scott Brown kept the captain’s armband despite newspaper reports that he was allegedly drunk in an Edinburgh night club in the early hours of Thursday while former United duo Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong were cup-tied after their January deadline day moves.
Both watched from the stands as Celtic almost made the perfect start to the 69th League Cup Final when van Dijk’s header from an Anthony Stokes corner was nodded off the line by Dillon as early as the third minute.
The Tangerines were given another huge let-off five minutes later when Morris sold Cierzniak short with a slack backpass which Leigh Griffiths intercepted but the striker could only find the side netting from an acute angle.
At the other end, the Hoops rearguard were almost sliced apart when Dillon’s long throw-in was helped into the path of John Rankin, who was smothered by the onrushing Craig Gordon.
Celtic turned up the heat midway through the first half with United resorting to last-ditch measures as Stefan Johansen’s attempted shot was charged down superbly by McGowan.
McNamara’s team were temporarily forced to play with a man light when Dillon had to leave the field with a leg injury after coming off worse in a tangle with van Dijk.
And the Hoops ruthlessly seized on the right-back’s absence to break the deadlock two minutes shy of the half-hour.
Stokes – deployed on the left-hand side – got the better of McGowan to deliver a cross which Commons directed goalwards. The forward’s effort deflected off Jaroslaw Fojut and was touched onto the post by Cierzniak but he reacted quickest to fire home the loose ball for his 11th goal of the season.
The Celtic playmaker was inches away from a second soon after but for Cierzniak, the Polish stopper diving low to his right to palm his 20-yard effort wide of the post.
United were about to bring on midfielder Blair Spittal before Dillon re-emerged from the tunnel to take to the field again.
McNamara’s men offered minimal attacking threat prior to the interval, however, the lively Ryan Dow had legitimate penalty claims ignored when appearing to be shoved over by Brown.
There was an increase in hunger and intent from Dundee United at the start of the second period as Bilate tested Gordon from 22 yards following a swift breakaway.
But their hopes suffered a severe setback on 55 minutes as Dillon challenged Izaguirre to receive his marching orders from referee Bobby Madden – taking charge of his first major final.
It provided Celtic with the ideal platform to put the outcome beyond doubt as the Hoops regained a firm foothold with prolonged spells of possession to crank up the pressure.
Johansen went close to doubling their advantage, getting in front of Fojut to steer Izaguirre’s centre narrowly wide of the left-hand post.
The Celtic onslaught continued with Stokes firing off target from the edge of the box as the Tangerines – penned in for long periods – struggled to stem the tide.
The Hoops, though, eventually made their numerical advantage count 11 minutes from time.
Stokes’ progress into the box was stopped by a fine Morris tackle but Johansen picked up the loose pieces and his cross was laid back by John Guidetti to fellow substitute Forrest, who stroked home a controlled finish from 18 yards.
Erskine screwed wide from similar range at the other end in what was the closest United came in the closing stages.
The margins could have been greater in Celtic’s favour had Forrest – who shrugged off 13-goal top scorer Guidetti to take the spotkick – found the net from 12 yards with five minutes to go.
But it mattered little as the celebrations began in earnest at the national stadium and Celtic will be desperate to add two more trophies to their collection before the season is out.
Substitutes: Anier (on for Bilate 59′), Erskine (on for Paton 72′)
Not used: Szromnik (GK), Souttar, Telfer, Spittal, Connolly.
Booked: McGowan (33′), Paton (67′)
Sent-off: Dillon (55′)
Substitutes: Forrest (on for Commons 69′), Guidetti (on for Griffiths 69′), Henderson (on for Bitton 82′)
Not used: Zaluska (GK), Fisher, McGregor, Scepovic.
Goals: Commons (28′), Forrest (79′)
Referee: Bobby Madden (Scotland) – 8/10