ICTFC returned home as proud runners up in the 2023 Scottish Cup final, frustrating the Scottish Champions for long stretches before succumbing 3-1. A first half goal inside the box from Kyogo Furuhashi and two separate close-range finishes by Liel Abada and Jota settled the game, but the Caley Jags scored with five minutes of normal time spare to return up the road with something.
Billy Dodds’ side arrived on a sweltering Saturday evening, hoping to complete a legendary underdog tale and a shot at playing in Europe next season. Opting for an extra man in midfield, David Carson replaced Daniel Mackay as the only change made from their 3-0 win against Falkirk FC; with number eight slipping into midfield to help out alongside Sean Welsh and Scott Allardice.
Meanwhile, Celtic arrived at Hampden Stadium looking for a treble of domestic trophies this season. Ange Postegoglu made only one change from their lineup against Rangers FC, replacing Cameron Carters-Vickers with Tomoki Iwata in the backline. Kyoho Furuhashi beat pre-match concerns of a slight knock to start up front.
Celtic kept the ball for the bulk of the first ten minutes, but found it difficult to pick their way through the ICT defence; with many probing passes going out for a goal kick and shepherded out of play.
At the 11th minute, Scott Allardice managed to swivel in space and pick out a dinked pass within his half for Henderson to chase but Joe Hart rushed out to clear near the edge of his box before the young winger could capitalise.
A half-chance from Maeda at the 33rd minute was the closest shot on goal of the game at that point, who cut inside from the left but dragged his effort well wide-left of Ridger’s posts. Then came a cross-cum-shot from O’Reilly, who could only squeeze a low pass into the box that was easily collected by Ridgers.
Billy Dodds’ side would be happy to go into the break level, but Celtic provided a sucker punch at the 37th minute. A cut back cross from O’Reilly inside the box was met by Furuhashi at around the six yard line, who got in front of his defender and sidefooted an effort past the shot stopper. He almost grabbed a brace moments later, as he attempted to bend a shot at an angle towards Ridgers’ far post but went wide.
Celtic subbed off Daizen Maeda at the start of the second off for Liel Abada, and he extended the score at the 64th minute. Celtic pushed up, evading tackles down the middle of the park and spread it wide to the left to Callum McGregor. The Celtic captain picked out the Israeli in the six yard box for a slotted finish into the net. An extended VAR check found that the Scottish international was marginally onside.
Near the end of the game, ICT rewarded the supporters who traveled down with a late goal. With around five minutes spare, an excellent whipped ball from Duffy down the right hand side met substitute Daniel Mackay at the back post to finish past Joe Hart. A well deserved goal for their efforts all game.
Just after added time was signalled, Celtic would get their third. Again a pass within the box found Jota at an angle from the left side, and the Portuguese winger managed to prod the ball past Mark Ridgers.