EFE AMBROSE was once a title hero for the Celtic fans.
This time it was the Scottish Cup he was cruelly appreciated by them – penalised for a hand-ball for Aaron Mooy’s first and then blundering badly for Celtic’s second.
But you had to feel for the well-travelled Morton stopper.
The VAR dictated penalty decision was harsh in the extreme.
Overall, though, it was hell back in Paradise for the affable Nigerian.
Mooy later claimed a second while Kyogo Furuhashi also celebrated a double – moving to 20 goals for the season – and David Turnbull netted again for a ruthless Celts display to seal a 24th victory from 26 domestic games so far.
It was four changes for the champions from midweek but it was hardly a weakened side put out by Ange Postecoglou given the depth of his squad.
Three internationals came in – Mooy, Turnbull and Daizen Maeda – plus the £3.75 million Alexandro Bernabei.
Giorgos Giakoumakis and Cameron Carter-Vickers were again missing entirely through injury while Greg Taylor is another fighting back to fitness.
It was as tough as it could get for Imrie’s Morton – fifth in the Championship and five games without a win.
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But they had an impressive 2,500-strong support backing them, the largest for domestic opposition this term.
And they were excellent until a shocking penalty decision – not even claimed by Hoops players – sent them on their way to an ultimately crushing defeat.
But a sensational repeat of their legendary 2013 League Cup win at Parkhead – courtesy of a Dougie Imrie penalty and ironically from a hand-ball by Ambrose – was never on the cards.
On a poor looking pitch Celts captain Callum McGregor fired a shot narrowly wide after five minutes and you thought it would be completely one way traffic.
But then Morton took over, keeping the Hoops pinned in their own half and often their box.
Lewis Strapp’s long throw-ins caused discomfort for a home defence once again including Yuki Kobayashi.
And the left-back should’ve opened the scoring for ‘Ton in the eighth minute – left with a clear shot at goal from just 12-yards following a neat one-two with Robbie Crawford but only managing a scuffed effort which was easy for Joe Hart.
But it was good pressure from the underdogs.
Thejn the roof caved in for them out of absolutely nowhere.
A Liel Abada shot had taken a deflection, come off Ambrose and gone straight to keeper Brian Schwake – and NOBODY thought anything untoward about it.
Play had carried on.
Suddenly, though, ref Kevin Clancy halted proceedings and it was announced there was a VAR check for a possible hand-ball and penalty.
After three minutes and Clancy racing across to check the TV monitor at the tunnel, the whistler confirmed it was a spot-kick with pictures actually showing the ball had, strictly speaking, come off the hapless Ambrose’ right hand.
But it felt a poor decision.
Mooy stepped up and blasted an 18th minute right foot shot beyond Schwake.
There was no way back for Morton after that.
And just three minutes later veteran Ambrose – 169 games for Celtic over four years with four league medals – was once more at the heart of his former club’s second goal which truly knocked the stuffing out of the visitors.
His shocking touch from a Grant Gillespie pass, right in front of the Morton box, was seized on by Abada who quickly slipped in Furuhashi – and the Japanese ace clinically shot past Schwake.
It was a howling mistake from the Nigerian who, truth be told, has had a career littered with them albeit also with plenty of glory.
Morton responded immediately with a dangerous ball across the Celtic box from Jai Quitongo which found Strapp six yards out. But his shot was brilliantly blocked by Alistair Johnston.
Then we got told there was a VAR check for a possible hand-ball – presumably against Johnston – but that only took seconds to be dismissed.
Celtic resumed complete control and Abada, twice, McGregor and Maeda all had efforts on goal before a superb third goal was notched.
A neat passing move ended with Abada and Furuhashi combining and from the striker’s lay-off Turnbull brilliantly passed a right foot shot into the corner from 20-yards for a second goal in as many games.
Postecoglou stated pre-match the Scotland international was going nowhere and had a big part to play in the second half of the season. This was further evidence why.
Schwake saved from the lively Abada but Celtic’s fourth came in first half added time.
Furuhashi pounced at close range with an emphatic shot after some intricate Hoops play.
It had taken him until May of his stunning debut campaign with Celtic to reach 20 goals, admittedly injury also keeping him out for nearly three months.
But to have already managed the tally is still outstanding.
With the tie finished Postecoglou sensibly took off Furuhashi and McGregor at the break and put on Sead Haksabanovic and new capture Tomoki Iwata for a debut, the fourth Japanese player tasting action.
Celtic, of course, never ease off under their manager.
Mooy had a right foot shot come off the post and then Schwake pushed away another fine Turnbull shot.
Celtic attacked at will and Schwake comfortably smothered a close range Johnston effort just after the hour.
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The final half hour was deadly dull as a contest as Postecoglou used it for game time for more subs, James Forrest and Matt O’Riley, and Mooy struck an 84th minute fifth goal.
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