Aberdeen in search of elusive cup success
Derek McInnes: important to find a performance (pic: SNS Group)
Aberdeen v Celtic
Hampden Park 2.30pm
Aberdeen go into today’s Scottish Cup semi final hoping to go one step further than last weekend’s draw against Celtic and book another chance to end one of the longest droughts in the competition.
Of the current top-flight teams to have lifted football’s oldest trophy only St Mirren have failed to win it again for a longer spell. In Aberdeen’s case, it was 1990 when they last tasted success.
Among their list of failed campaigns was a 4-3 defeat to First Division side Queen of the South in the 2008 semi-final. In 2014 they were beaten 2-1 at the same stage by St Johnstone who had been unable to score against them in their league meetings that season.
Dons manager Derek McInnes said: “We’ve only won the Scottish Cup seven times as a club, and four of those were more or less in consecutive years in the early to mid eighties. That was a period outwith the norm.
“While we’ve been in charge, we’ve got to semi-finals and finals and it’s important we find a performance in us to get to another final and put ourselves in a position to win the trophy.”
Celtic come into today’s game on the back of four games without a win as they attempt to secure the first leg of a quadruple treble.
They will be required to extend a British football record of 34 successive wins in cup ties. However, they have been hit by injuries and today they will be without James Forrest who has played in 30 of those games.
Today’s victors will meet Hearts in the final on 20 December following a compelling semi final against Hibs.
Liam Boyce’s extra-time penalty sent the Championship side into the final for a second consecutive year after Hibs’ Kevin Nisbet saw an earlier spot-kick hit the bar.
Liam Boyce celebrates scoring the winning penalty (pic: SNS Grup)
Craig Wighton’s fifth goal in four games broke the deadlock for Hearts, before Christian Doidge headed level.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson said: “It was a rollercoaster ride and there was a lot of nail biting in that extra-time, but we’ve managed to get the win and beat our arch rivals here at Hampden again.
“At the time, I don’t think any of them were penalty kicks, but it’s one of them – it’s very difficult for the referee out there. We rode our luck a bit for our penalty but held our nerve for ours.”
Hibs manager Jack Ross felt for Kevin Nisbet: “We’re sore. We put a lot into the match and there’s fine margins in football all the time. We came out of the wrong side of those margins today.
“There’s no magic words to take the pain away from Kevin Nisbet. He’s got the courage to take the penalty and he’ll have the courage to do so again in future. He’s hurting right now, but he’ll be fine.”
Hearts former skipper Zaliukas dies
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson heard of the death of Marius Zaliukus, his ex-teammate, just before the start of the Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibernian.
The Lithuanian Football Federation confirmed that Zaliukas, who also played for Rangers, died at the age of 36.
Neilson said: “It’s fitting today that we beat our arch rivals Hibs in a Scottish Cup game.
Marius Zaliukas: lifted the cup for Hearts (pic: SNS Group)
“Because when you think about Marius the key one is him lifting that cup as the captain when they beat Hibs 5-1. Hopefully this will give slight comfort to the family in this difficult time.
“He was a huge part of the club. That 5-1 victory in the Scottish Cup will go down in folklore forever. So we’re all devastated.”
The centre-back made more than 150 appearances for Hearts between 2007 and 2013 and captained the club to Scottish Cup success in 2012.
He also played for Leeds United and Rangers before returning to Lithuania, for whom he won 25 caps.
“We express our deepest condolences to Marius’ family,” read an LFF statement.