Celtic kept their quadruple hopes alive as they stretched their unbeaten domestic run to 25 games to book their Scottish Cup quarter final place with victory over Raith Rovers.
It was a comfortable win in the end for the Hoops against the Fifers but they were made to work for much of the fifth round tie before finally killing off the Championship side.
Leading through a Liam Scales stunner, Ange Postecoglou’s men allowed the visitors back into the game.
And John McGlynn’s men were raging after Steven McLean turned down a penalty claim after Cameron Carter-Vickers appeared to handle the ball.
Raith remained in the game despite that but had to wait until Giorgos Giakoumakis netted a killer second in the 68th minute before they could relax and substitute Daizen Maeda added a third three minutes later.
Celtic added a fourth late on from the penalty spot when Sean Mackie handled and Nir Bitton netted at the second attempt after MacDonald saved his initial effort.
Mackie had already been booked but Ross Matthews was shown the yellow for that incident in a case of mistaken identity in a bad day at the office for whistler McLean.
It was a good day in the end despite being below par for long spells and Christopher Jullien made his long-awaited return, although Mikey Johnston limped off and could be added to the injury list.
Johnston had been given his chance to shine and went close early on with a jinking run and shot just over.
But there was a nervous moment at the other end when Stephen Welsh was almost caught out with a passback that Jamie Gullan was close to intercepting but Joe Hart cleared the danger.
Nir Bitton tried his luck from distance and the Israeli’s long range effort sailed just over Jamie MacDonald’s crossbar.
The Fifers weren’t overawed by the occasion and but their resistance was broken midway through the first half and there was little they could do about a goal right out the top drawer.
Anthony Ralston’s throw on the right was worked to Tom Rogic and he rolled a lovely pass to Scales who took a touch before sending an unstoppable shot beyond MacDonald.
Raith refused to let the heads drop unlike the Hoops with the tempo – and the visitors were raging after having a penalty shout turned down.
Reghan Tumilty sent in a downward header from a cross from the right and they screamed that the ball came off the arm of Cameron Carter-Vickers but referee Steven McLean turned it down.
The Fifers grew in confidence and Postecoglou was clearly unhappy on the touchline but resisted the temptation to change it at the break.
Raith started brightly after the restart but Giakoumakis hit the crossbar, although the flag had earlier gone up against Johnston in the build up.
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Johnston then limped off to be replaced by Jota as the winger suffered yet more injury issues and the Portuguese ace helped put the game to bed.
Reo Hatate played a delicious precision pass to the on loan Benfica man and he crossed for Giakoumakis to fire home.
The Hoops then added a third when substitutes Liel Abada and Maeda combined for the Japanese striker to score.
Abada swung in a corner and Maeda saw his point blank header brilliantly saved by MacDonald but the frontman seemed in the rebound and Bitton netted scored at the second attempt from the penalty spot.
Here’s three talking points from Parkhead
Redemption-seeking Raith killed off by Hoops quality
Raith Rovers have been a disgrace off the park with the signing of David Goodwillie but were brave for long spells on it at Parkhead.
The scoreline might not suggest it but the Fifers made a game of it in this Scottish Cup tie for long spells.
And they had a big penalty shout turned down which might have changed things for them.
But Celtic’s quality told in the end and they ran out comfortable winners but it took them a while to get going.
After days of debate over whether their winner against Aberdeen should have stood, Celtic found themselves yet again on the end of a favorable decision.
Shortly after taking the lead they allowed Raith Rovers to creep back into the game and the Fifers were screaming for a penalty.
It came after Cameron Carter-Vickers appeared to handle the ball from Reghan Tumilty’s headed knockdown.
The visitors instantly appealed but referee Steven McLean waved away the claims much to the relief of the American stopper.
Michael Stewart, on co-commentary for Premier Sports, was adamant it should have been a spot kick and Chris Sutton and Paul Hartley were in agreement.
Craig Levein said on BBC: “That’s a penalty. That was going in, or at least it was close to going in. It’s bounced up and hit his arm from him”
Celtic, though, could also point to an offside call against Giorgos Giakoumakis that seemed to be the wrong decision.
And McLean’s day got worse after a case of mistaken identity at Celtic’s late penalty which should have seen Sean Mackie sent off.
mikey misery; Julien Joy
mikey misery; Julien Joy
Mikey Johnston has been plagued by injury problems and the winger looked disconsolate as he limped off again.
The 22-year-old was given his chance to shine and looked bright enough early on, firing a shot over.
But just 10 minutes into the second half Johnston was forced off injured as Jota came on for the luckless star.
Johnston suffered a hamstring tear during pre-season to add to two years of hell but seemed to be on his way back after returning to towards the end of last year.
He will be hoping this latest set-back is nothing major but the expression on his face suggested otherwise.
But on the flip side this tie saw the return of Christopher Jullien who had 13 months of injury hell.
The Frenchman came on for Cameron Carter-Vickers with just one 15 minutes left and it was a big step for the stopper who could play a big part in the remainder of the season
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.