Liam Scales surveyed a potentially glorious end to Celtic’s season following their epic Scottish Gas Scottish Cup semi-final win over Aberdeen on Saturday, but knows there is still plenty of work to do.

A dramatic 6-5 penalty shoot-out victory over the Dons at Hampden Park followed a 3-3 draw and it booked the Hoops a place in the May 25 final against Rangers or Hearts, who face off at the national stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Parkhead side are three points clear of their Old Firm rivals at the top of the cinch Premiership with five post-split fixtures remaining, one of which is the visit of Rangers to Celtic Park.

Scales acknowledged the importance of momentum going into the business end of the season.

“We are coming in strong to the last part of the season and that’s the way we like it and that’s the way we want it to be,” said the Irish defender.

“With five games left in the league we want to try and put that to bed and then deal with the cup.

“It probably won’t be that simple but that’s the plan.”

Scales, who signed from Shamrock Rovers in August 2021, was on loan at Aberdeen last season and there was speculation about him possibly signing a permanent deal with the Granite City club.

However, the Republic of Ireland international became a regular starter for Celtic this season under returning boss Brendan Rodgers and he is looking to continue on in the same manner.

“I really enjoyed my time at Aberdeen and it is a great club,” he said.

“To break into the team here is brilliant.

“I’m delighted how the season has gone. We just need to finish the season strong in our last five league games leading into the cup final.”

Scales described the semi-final as “mental” and it came to a crescendo in the penalty shoot-out when goalkeeper Joe Hart hit the post with Celtic’s fifth penalty but then saved from Killian Phillips to confirm the win.

Celtic recovered from Bojan Miovski’s early goal to led through goals from Nicolas Kuhn and substitute James Forrest, before Dons substitute Ester Sokler levelled in the 90th minute.

Matt O’Riley fired Celtic ahead in extra-time but stand-in Dons captain Angus MacDonald made up for an earlier mistake that led to Celtic’s equaliser when he headed in the 119th minute.

Scales said: “The boys who took the penalties showed extreme mental strength and bravery to put them away. It was amazing.”

At 3-2 up in extra-time, Celtic defender Cameron Carter-Vickers thought he had given a penalty away for his tackle on Junior Hoilett inside the box and was relieved upon discovering that referee Don Robertson had awarded a foul to the Hoops for the Aberdeen substitute’s challenge on Celtic right-back Alistair Johnston seconds earlier.

Carter-Vickers said: “I didn’t see him until late. I thought it was given but when it wasn’t given I was happy.

“The referee just said it was a foul against Alistair Johnston. Obviously VAR checked it and I just said if you seen it on the pitch then stick with your decision please.”

Stephen Welsh can draw on 15 years of pressure at Celtic as another season moves towards a tense and exciting run-in.

The 24-year-old defender came through the club’s youth ranks before making his debut in February 2020 during a 4–1 win away to Hamilton.

Welsh has had to fight for game time since but has taken over recently from injured Cameron Carter-Vickers and he was again paired with Liam Scales for the trip to St Mirren on Sunday.

The Scottish champions have been criticised at times this season for their performances but the 2-0 Scottish Gas Scottish Cup win in Paisley, which set up a quarter-final clash with Livingston next month, made it eight wins and a draw in their last nine games.

Celtic also lead Rangers by three points at the top of the cinch Premiership, albeit the Light Blues having the chance to go top against Ross County at Ibrox on Wednesday night with their game in hand.

Welsh, who signed a new four-year deal last August, said: “I’ve known the pressure for 15 years now. Every week you need to go and win.

“You enjoy it as well, you enjoy the pressure because you need to win. A draw or a defeat is a nightmare so yeah, we know the pressure and we stand up to it all the time.

“We are used to this. Every season the pressure for every Celtic player is huge.

“We deal with it really well. Especially the last couple of seasons, we have been very successful and it is about us maintaining the standards to be successful again and go and win the trophies that are available to us.

“There is always a determination in this group. Not only the quality but the character that we have.

“We have a lot of experienced players who have won trophies. We won a treble last season so the experience we have in the team is excellent.

“We take every game 100 per cent, every training session leads up to the next game so for us, it is normal for us to be under that pressure and we always deal with it very well.

“We are always strong together. We know that every team wants to beat Celtic and our job is to win games, perform well and win trophies for the club.”

Welsh is delighted to be back in the first team and enjoyed a tough test against the Buddies who succumbed to goals from Japanese duo Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda.

He said: “It was a frustrating first few months, I had a bad injury and was out for four or five months so to get back into the swing of things, that is my first 90 minutes in a while so delighted with the clean sheet as well. Joe Hart had to make a couple of saves but that is what he is there for.

“They are a physical team and they like to put balls in the  box.

“It is very effective for them. We had to deal with it and I thought we dealt with it well as a back four and Joe included.

“We are together, we are really a united team so we will move forward.”

Liam Scales admits Celtic need to be more streetwise in Europe.

Brendan Rodgers’ side have been very competitive with a full quota of players in the Champions League but three red cards in four games have proved costly.

Daizen Maeda’s dismissal in Spain on Tuesday led to a 6-0 defeat by Atletico Madrid, which leaves Celtic bottom of Group E with one point and in need of wins over Lazio and Feyenoord and favours from Diego Simeone’s team.

Centre-back Scales, who has not been booked in the Champions League, said of the red cards: “It’s probably that we are a young team and maybe a bit naive at times.

“You come and play in Europe and the referees, you get nothing out of them. They are a lot stricter and tackles that you might get away with domestically, they give.

“With VAR, you are going to pick up red cards in the way we’ve been doing.

“It’s frustrating, because I think with 11 players on the pitch we had started the game quite well.

“I know we had conceded earlier before the red card, but I thought we had quite a bit of the ball, and it definitely would have been a more even game with 11 men.”

Scales also believes they need to learn from the animated reaction of the Atletico bench when Maeda made his tackle and was initially booked, before VAR intervened.

Scales said: “To be honest, you see the way they react and all of their staff are up off the bench. It definitely doesn’t help.

“The VAR screen is right beside their bench as well, and he (the referee) was probably feeling the pressure.

“They are definitely more street-smart than us, that’s for sure, the way they influence the referee.

“It’s not the nicest part of the game, but it helps them win games and we could definitely learn from it.”

The manner of defeat has led to some soul-searching among the Celtic support about their level in European football but Scales pointed out they had drawn with Atletico two weeks earlier.

“I think we’re at the level, it’s just naivety and poor decisions at times have let us down,” the Republic of Ireland international said.

“Some of the goals, we could have defended better, we need to look back on that and see what we could have done better defensively.

“But it’s still difficult with 10 men away from home to get results at any level, and especially there.”

Celtic now travel to Rome needing a win on November 28.

“There’s a few games left in the group and now it’s just about bouncing back and doing as well as we can, because the Lazio game was so tight and it could have gone either way, and we feel that we can go there and get a result,” Scales said.

“It’s the same with Feyenoord at home. We were doing well in Feyenoord up until the couple of red cards, and the same happened here.

“I think we just have to bounce back, that’s it.”

Cameron Carter-Vickers could be in line for a surprise recall when Celtic host Lazio in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The centre-back has not played since suffering a hamstring injury against Aberdeen on August 13.

With Gustaf Lagerbielke missing through suspension following his red card in the Group E opener against Feyenoord, and Maik Nawrocki and Stephen Welsh still out through injury, Rodgers has limited options in central defence.

Liam Scales is set to continue in the team following his impressive recent form, while on-loan Liverpool Nat Phillips is available after coming off the bench at Motherwell on Saturday to make his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury on his debut against Dundee on September 16.

Manager Brendan Rodgers said: “In terms of Nat, he came through fine so he will be available.

“Cam, we wouldn’t take a risk unless he was fit. He has come through really, really well. He is further down the road than we thought.

“He has had a real good week of training and he’s been doing lots of other work out on the field before that.

“I said before that it (his return) might have been after the international break but he’s made great progress, so we will just assess that to see if he can be in for the squad (on Wednesday) and if he is, then obviously it would be great news for us.”

Liam Scales insists Aberdeen are intent on putting Hearts’ hopes of finishing third in the cinch Premiership “to bed” on Saturday – just four months after the Dons suffered a 5-0 defeat at Tynecastle.

The Pittodrie side have enjoyed a remarkable turnaround since that debacle under previous boss Jim Goodwin in January and they currently hold a five-point advantage over the Jambos and a six-point lead over Hibernian with three games to play.

A win in Edinburgh this weekend will ensure Hearts cannot catch the Dons and will all but guarantee Barry Robson’s resurgent side will be playing European group-stage football next term, as long as Hibs do not win their last three games and Championship side Inverness do not beat Celtic in the Scottish Cup final.

“We’re a different team now,” said Dons defender Scales. “A lot’s changed since the last time we went to Tynecastle. But we have to respect that they’re a top side, especially at Tynecastle.

“We know exactly what the challenge will be and we’re going to go there and try and win the game and finish third. To have any chance of finishing third, they have to beat us so there is pressure on them. It’s a massive game and I hope it’s going to be a really good game.

“We’re not going there to try and nick a draw, we want to go there and put it to bed. There’s pressure on both teams. With us being ahead, they need to bridge the gap by winning but we’re also focused on winning.”

The Tynecastle showdown has been billed as a £5 million match given the potential rewards for whoever goes into the European group stages.

“As players we’re not really thinking about what’s at stake financially,” said Scales. “We just want to go there and win and finish third because our aim at the start of the season was to finish as close to the top two as we could.

“If we could finish third by winning at the weekend, that will be our goal achieved.

“It is important for the club to make as much money as possible to keep pushing in the right direction but as players our goal is to finish third, which will give the players who are here next season the opportunity to play European football which is where we want to be.”

It remains unclear whether Scales, who is nearing the end of a season-long loan from Celtic, will be at Pittodrie next term.

“Not really,” said the 24-year-old Irishman when asked if there had been any movement regarding his future. “I’m focusing on playing the next two games for myself – obviously there’s three games for the rest of the lads (Scales is ineligible against his parent club on the last day) – and hopefully finishing third and then we’ll take it from there.

“I’ll have a chat with Celtic and with my agent and see what’s best for myself at the end of the season. I don’t think there’s any point thinking about it right now because there are big games coming up. There’s plenty time to sort things out between Celtic and Aberdeen. It’s not on my mind that much at the moment.

“This has been my first season playing regularly in Scotland and I think from the start to now, I’ve learned a lot and improved a lot. I’ve enjoyed it.

“We started well before the World Cup and that was enjoyable and then we went through a patch that was not so enjoyable but you learn a lot from that.

“The last 10 games or so has been brilliant, winning games, keeping clean sheets, shooting up the table. That’s what every footballer wants to be involved in. I’ve taken so much from this year. I really enjoy playing here.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.