Calum Murray will be the referee as Scottish Championship winners Hearts prepare to lift the trophy after their final-day encounter with Rangers at Tynecastle on Saturday.
REFEREE Calum Murray will take charge of the Scottish Championship clash between champions Hearts and third-placed Rangers on the final day of the season.
The 47-year-old has been chosen as the man in the middle on Saturday when Robbie Neilson’s Jambos host a Gers side who are seeking to pip Hibernian into second place in their last home game of their promotion campaign.
He will be assisted in Gorgie by linesmen Graeme Stewart and Andrew McWilliam while the fourth official is Bobby Madden – who will oversee Celtic’s Premiership match with Dundee on Friday night.
Hearts – who gained promotion back to the top-flight at the first time of asking last month – will lift the trophy after the televised lunchtime game at Tynecastle.
The experienced Edinburgh-based whistler – who has only received 11 Premiership games this season – will take charge of his fifth Hearts game of the campaign but the first since their 2-1 win at Falkirk in mid-November.
His only two Rangers matches came against their play-off rivals Falkirk and Hibernian within the first month of the season.
Murray – who has refereed three Celtic games since the start of March including their 2-1 win at Dundee last week – is no stranger to a fixture involving Hearts and Rangers.
The systems developer – who is the oldest of the current match officials in Scotland – has issued five red cards in his last nine games.
Murray began 2014/15 at Tynecastle in the Petrofac Training Cup as he oversaw Hearts’ 3-1 win over Annan in the first round of the competition.
It is thought that he could retire at the end of the current season although Murray continues to be a fit and capable official who once competed with Craig Thomson and Willie Collum to receive the high-profile appointments.
In what could be Stuart McCall’s final game as manager, Rangers will claim second spot with a win if Hibernian fail to beat Scottish Cup finalists Falkirk away from home.
Three points for Hearts – who have won four of their six league games since their promotion was confirmed – would see the capital club end the campaign with 93 points as well as 30 wins from 36 matches this term.
The 12:15 BST kick-off – which was moved back 24 hours following complaints from Hibs and Hearts that it would impact on “sporting integrity” – will be shown live on Sky Sports 3.
Celtic claimed their first silverware under manager Ronny Deila with an assured victory over 10-man Dundee United in the 2015 Scottish League Cup Final at Hampden Park.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Attendance: 49,259
Celtic are seeking to complete the first part of a domestic treble when facing Dundee United for the second of four meetings in a fortnight in Sunday’s Scottish League Cup Final at Hampden Park.
CELTIC are seeking to complete the first part of a domestic treble when facing Dundee United in the 2015 QTS Scottish League Cup Final.
Sunday’s showpiece at Hampden Park (KO 3pm, live on BBC Scotland) will be the second of four consecutive meetings between the two Premiership sides – separated by three places and 17 points in the table – in the space of a fortnight.
Opposite number Jackie McNamara believed Brown should have been sent off for a robust tackle on Ciftci and felt the melee which saw his midfielder Paul Paton dismissed would not have ensued if the initial challenge from Virgil van Dijk, who was shown a red card, was dealt with quickly.
For Celtic, it is a first domestic final in charge for Deila since replacing Neil Lennon last summer and the Norwegian harbours genuine hope that the Hoops can clinch a first treble since 2000-01 and only the fourth in their 127-year history.
The League Cup has eluded the Hoops for six years when a 2-0 extra-time victory over Rangers under Gordon Strachan’s stewardship in 2009 saw them lift the trophy for the 14th time – still some way behind the Gers’ record haul of 27.
Since then, the competition has had three different names and the Hoops have experienced heartbreak, regret and humiliation in equal measure against the likes of Morton, Ross County, St Mirren and Kilmarnock in their last appearance in the final in 2012.
Two-time winners Dundee United have suffered similar woe in recent times since their back-to-back triumphs in 1980 and 1981.
The Tangerines have been runners-up on four occasions, including most recently in 2008 when losing 3-2 on penalties to Rangers in their last final appearance after a 2-2 draw.
United have hit a stumbling block and cannot seem to buy a win at the moment, with no victory in five since a cup stroll at Stranraer, as the pre-Christmas success over the champions seems like a distant memory.
That landmark result, their only win over Celtic in the last 11 attempts, can act as a useful reminder to McNamara’s men of their capabilities.
It will be the first time the sides will face each other at Hampden for two years since Celtic came out on top in a topsy-turvy Scottish Cup semi-final which was settled by the odd goal in seven following an additional half-an-hour.
A similar contest would certainly appease the neutrals and indeed supporters of both clubs, with Celtic being allocated 25,000 tickets while United had 15,000 and took up the option of an additional 3,000.
With both sides adopting attractive styles of play and favouring possession as nine tenths of the law, it should serve up a classic given that the Hampden pitch was re-laid following justifiable criticism of the national stadium’s surface last month.
Despite suggestions that the tempestuous nature of the Tannadice clash will have no bearing on the final from United skipper Sean Dillon and others, the proof as they say will be in the pudding.
But, with the first domestic prize of the Scottish season on offer, the main question to ask is will it be green and white or tangerine on the cup by the end of Sunday afternoon?
ROUTE TO THE FINAL:
Third Round 1-0 win v Dundee (H) Quarter-Final 3-3 draw v Hibernian (A) * won 7-6 on penalties Semi-Final 2-1 win v Aberdeen (Hampden Park)
Third Round 3-0 win v Hearts (H) Quarter-Final 6-0 win v Partick Thistle (H) Semi-Final 2-0 win v Rangers (Hampden Park)
Anthony Stokes has scored eight goals in his last 10 appearances against Dundee United and has 18 career goals against them in total (more than against any other side).
Stefan Johansen has netted five times in his last seven domestic outings for Celtic.
Aidan Connolly has two goals in 14 appearances this season with the former Queen’s Park starlet making his seventh start for the club against Celtic last weekend.
Former Inverness and Hibernian midfielder John Rankin will be looking to win the first silverware of his career with United this weekend at the age of 31.
It is Celtic’s 30th appearance in the League Cup Final – they have lost on their last two (v Kilmarnock in 2012 and Rangers in 2011) while Dundee United are in their seventh final.
It is the first time the sides have met in a major final since 2005 when Alan Thompson scored the only goal in the Scottish Cup Final for Celtic at Hampden.
They have only met once before in a League Cup Final with Celtic running out 3-0 winners back in 1998.
Dundee United’s Paul Paton has been cleared to play after the midfielder’s ban was repealed following his sending-off for mistaken identity in last Sunday’s Scottish Cup last-eight tie.
Paul Dixon is also eligible to play after the on-loan Huddersfield left-back was dismissed at Tannadice for denying Leigh Griffiths a goal with the use of his arm.
Nadir Ciftci is already banned for receiving two yellow cards in the competition following his booking in the semi-final win over Aberdeen therefore one of Henri Anier or Mario Bilate is likely to deputise.
Callum Morris – who scored the equaliser against the Dons at Hampden – has declared himself fit following a thigh injury which has kept the ex-Dunfermline defender out since February 14.
Celtic have Virgil van Dijk available after the Dutch centre-back had his red card overturned.
Stefan Johansen – who will sit out the midweek cup replay suspended – is likely to start in a forward position with defensive midfielders Scott Brown and Nir Biton protecting the back four.
Kris Commons is also set to return to the side after being ruled out through injury last weekend.
Adam Matthews should be fit enough to start at right-back while Leigh Griffiths should get the nod over John Guidetti to lead the line.
Former United duo Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven are cup-tied having played for the Tangerines earlier in the competition.
Scottish Championship side Hibernian thumped four past League Two strugglers Berwick Rangers to book their place in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup.
One defeat in 20 games in all competitions for Hibs
Jason Cummings with 13th goal of season
Part-timers Berwick convincingly beaten in the capital
First Scottish Cup meeting between the sides for 35 years
Fourth straight win for Alan Stubbs’s team
IN-FORM Hibernian swept aside League Two strugglers Berwick Rangers at Easter Road to reach a third Scottish Cup semi-final in four years.
The Championship side were firmly in command following two quick-fire goals before the half-hour mark.
Jason Cummings slotted home Lewis Stevenson’s incisive slide-rule pass and Stevenson netted his third in six games after exchanging passes with top scorer Dominique Malonga.
Midfielder Sam Stanton crashed home a third moments after coming on as a substitute after Malonga’s shot was saved by Berwick goalkeeper Billy Bald.
And Liam Fontaine’s second Hibs goal – a powerful header from close range – completed the scoring with eight minutes to go.
Hibs will now face second-tier rivals Falkirk – whom they beat 4-3 at the semi-final stage two years ago – in the semi-finals next month.
The Leith club are now unbeaten in 14 games – their best run of form since 1999 – as the 2012 and 2013 finalists booked their first Hampden appearance in two years and took a step closer to winning the competition for the first time.
Until then, Alan Stubb’s side can switch their attentions back to returning to the Premiership at the first time of asking in their battle with Rangers for a play-off spot.
Berwick – second from bottom in the fourth-tier – were bidding to reach the Scottish Cup semis for the first time in their history and arrived in Edinburgh having won just one of their previous seven league games.
But the Shielfield Park outfit – despite their best efforts and positive attitude throughout – were well beaten while 42-year-old player-manager Colin Cameron left top scorer Darren Lavery on the substitutes bench until midway through the second period.
The high-profile appointment came on the same day he was selected to take charge of Hibernian’s Scottish Cup quarter-final with Berwick Rangers at Easter Road on Sunday while he will be the fourth official for Motherwell’s Premiership match with Kilmarnock on Saturday.
Overall, he has brandished 106 yellow cards, sent off six players and awarded nine penalties.
Madden has refereed Celtic four times already this term – three of which came in the first three months of the season against Inverness, Aberdeen and Ross County in the league while the last was at home to Motherwell on 21 January.
He has also taken charge of four Dundee United league victories over St Mirren in August, St Johnstone in September, Ross County in December and Hamilton Accies on 12 January.
He oversaw Aberdeen’s 4-0 League Cup semi win over St Johnstone and Dundee United’s 3-1 Scottish Cup semi victory over Rangers and was in the middle for three Edinburgh derbies throughout the calendar year of 2014.
His final match of last season was the first leg of Hibernian’s Premiership play-off in which they beat Hamilton 2-0 at New Douglas Park in May before losing the second leg at home after a penalty shoot-out.
Madden – who has been a referee since 2002 – was promoted to Category One in 2009 and has been a regular in the Scottish top-flight since his first match in January 2011.
A year later he became a Fifa official – one of seven from Scotland currently on the list of international referees.
Madden’s status is continuing to grow on the continental stage having overseen three Europa League ties this season while he has also been part of the Champions League officiating teams as an additional assistant referee.
His refereeing style – of allowing the game to flow without the use of cards unless necessary – and consistent performances is reflected in his position on the merit table while many among refereeing circles believe the appointment is well-deserved.
Inevitably, supporters of both Celtic and Dundee United have been having their say on social media…
It will be the second of three meetings in a matter of weeks between Dundee United and Celtic, who also face each other in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals this weekend and in the league in a fortnight’s time.
Jackie McNamara’s Tangerines lost the Scottish Cup Final to Tayside rivals St Johnstone last May while it will be a first final for Celtic boss Ronny Deila since the Norwegian replaced Neil Lennon last summer as the current Premiership leaders target a first treble since 2000-01.
His only red card came earlier this month in the Euro 2016 qualifier between Latvia and Turkey while last month, he handled PSV Eindhoven’s Europa League group stage opener at home to Estoril.
Madden also enjoyed a largely successful season in 2013-14, overseeing 42 games in total including semi-finals in both the Scottish League Cup and Scottish Cup, Europa League ties and World Cup qualifiers as well as 24 Premiership games.
His final match was the first leg of the Premiership play-off as Hibernian beat Hamilton 2-0 at New Douglas Park on 21 May before they lost the second leg at home on penalties under Terry Butcher.
Overall, Madden brandished 113 yellows and seven red cards – five of which came during a six-game spell across December and January – whilst awarding seven penalties.
A Category One official since 2008, he has been a regular figure in the Scottish top-flight since his debut in January 2011 and became a Fifa official later that year.