St Mirren shock Celtic to set up cup final date with Hearts


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The Independent Football

Premier League strugglers St Mirren pulled off one of the biggest cup shocks of recent times as they beat 14-time winners Celtic 3-2 at Hampden Park to reach the Scottish Communities League Cup final in March.

Debutant Esmael Goncalves opened the scoring for the Buddies after eight minutes, meeting Conor Newton's cross. Gary Hooper equalised for the Premier League leaders on the stroke of half-time, tapping in from close range after an excellent low cross from Scott Brown. Celtic had the chance to take the lead early in the second half as Lassad Nouioui's shot was blocked by the hands of Jim Goodwin and referee Willie Collum pointed to the spot.

However, St Mirren goalkeeper Craig Samson dived low to his right to parry Charlie Mulgrew's spot-kick, with Joe Ledley sending the rebound over the bar. Saints restored their lead from the spot in the 63rd minute with their own penalty, after Mulgrew handled Gary Teale's cross. Former Celtic player Paul McGowan stepped up to send Lukasz Zaluska the wrong way to make it 2-1.

Steven Thompson (above) gave his side breathing space with a third goal, volleying Marc McAusland's cross into the corner from 12 yards. Mulgrew added a second for Celtic in injury-time but it was to no avail.

The Paisley side will return to Hampden for the final on 17 March, where they will face Hearts, who beat Inverness on penalties in Saturday's other semi-final.

In the Premier League yesterday, Aberdeen and Hibernian failed to close the gap on the top three after a goalless draw at Pittodrie. Basement club Dundee remain 11 points from safety after a 0-0 draw at home to Kilmarnock.