Hearts see off Inverness to reach Scottish Cup final
Hearts booked their place in the William Hill Scottish Cup final with a comfortable 3-0 win over Championship side Inverness at Hampden Park
After a non-event of a first half, striker Uche Ikpeazu fired in the opener from close range four minutes after the restart before defender John Souttar added a second from similar distance.
Substitute Sean Clare slotted in a penalty in the 74th minute after Inverness keeper Mark Ridgers had fouled Ikpeazu to kill off the Highlanders who never really looked like they would pull off a shock victory.
The Tynecastle side, who last won the trophy in 2012, take on Aberdeen or Celtic in the final on May 25.
Ikpeazu, along with midfielder Peter Haring, had given the Edinburgh side a pre-match boost by shrugging off respective knee and groin injury concerns, while 19-year-old Aidan Keena took over up front from Clare who dropped to the bench.
Defenders Brad McKay and Jamie McCart and midfielder Charlie Trafford came back in for the Highlanders who had Coll Donaldson suspended.
In the 14th minute of a mostly dull first half, former Inverness winger Jake Mulraney had a shot stopped by McKay and moments later Jambos skipper Christophe Berra’s goal-bound drive was blocked by McCart for a corner which came to nothing.
The Tynecastle side had the bulk of possession and chances.
Inverness captain Carl Tremarco cleared a dangerous Mulraney cross from six yards out and in the 24th minute, with the Jambos in the ascendancy, Berra headed an Olly Lee corner over the bar.
Ridgers then gathered a weak Ikpeazu drive from 14 yards with not too much discomfort as the half finished goalless.
Ridgers was made to work a lot harder immediately after the restart, though, with the former Gorgie keeper stretching to brilliantly tip a long-distance drive from Lee over the bar and then collected the corner.
Hearts’ opener came from another corner, taken short by Lee to Mulraney. The winger created a yard of space and fired in a low drive which was blocked by Liam Polworth but only to Ikpeazu and the 24-year-old hammered the ball high into the net.
The goal left Inverness with no option but to come out of their shell, and they almost found an equaliser in the 57th minute.
After Polworth had been fouled by Arnaud Djoum at the edge of the box, Caley Thistle midfielder Joe Chalmers curled in a free-kick which Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal tipped onto the bar, with Lee completing the clearance.
McCart then had the ball in the Hearts net with a drive just after the hour mark, but the flag was up for offside.
Inverness’ hopes then suffered a huge blow as Hearts scored their second goal in the 66th minute, which also came from a corner.
Trafford could only flick on Lee’s cross from the left and Souttar came in at the back post to volley home from three yards to leave the Highlanders with a massive task.
But again they responded and Zlamal pushed Chalmers’ powerful 30-yard effort round the post for a corner which the Gorgie side defended before they added a third when Ridgers upended Ikpeazu.
Clare, on minutes earlier for Mulraney, sent the Inverness keeper the wrong way to secure Hearts’ place in next month’s final.