After Newco dominated long periods on play when these sides met at Ibrox on 2 January, it seemed likely Ange Postecoglou would start Aaron Mooy in the middle of the park. This change set the tone for yesterday’s game as it was Mooy who dictated territory and pace. He was forever calm in possession, drew fouls and nullified a tight Newco midfield. He also managed two secondary assists, making him by far the most influential player.
In a first half largely controlled by Celtic, Newco built two good attacks when Sakala overlapped Greg Taylor. On both occasions Carl Starfelt flew to the rescue. These interceptions were an indicator of how confident the player is right now, perhaps too confident for some of us while under pressure inside his own box. Next time, chip it higher, Carl.
The first great chance of the game fell to Newco. Tavernier found space on the right side of Celtic’s penalty area and fired a low ball across goal. It looked perfect for Sakala but Cameron Carter-Vickers slid in to knock the ball wide. From my angle at Hampden, it looked a goal.
Connor Goldson carried defensive blame for both Celtic goals.
Aaron Mooy is not an easy player to lose sight of but Newco’s three central mids, Lundstram, Kamara and Tillman, managed just that. See above. When he collected the ball at first goal, Mooy is 8 yards from the nearest opponent in the middle of the Newco half. At this point Goldson was marking Daizen Maeda but he soon lost concentration.
As Maeda advanced to the six-yard box, three Newco players noticed Greg Taylor and each thought they should close him down. Do these guys ever train together? It was like watching defending at one of those celebrity games.
Goldson dropping Maeda is a decision of the ages. Davies then had to leave Kyogo to cover Maeda at the front post. Greg Taylor’s cross was perfect enough to reach Maeda but not so perfect that Daizen made contact. Davies was out of play and Kyogo found himself unattended inside the six-yard box with the ball at his feet. Our star man will not get an easier chance all season.
The second goal was also a defensive calamity. Tillman was the wrong side of Mooy, which allowed Aaron time to thread his pass to Hatate. The back four were in a good line but two players were caught sleeping.
Goldson’s body position was straight onto play, meaning he would need to make a 180 to chase back and cover a forward pass. As it happened, he turned left when play went out to his right, necessitating a 270 degree turn that brought to mind the Ever Given’s attempts to swing around. This lapse gave Reo Hatate scope to drill a cross into the heart of the box.
How many times has Barisic napped at the back post against Celtic? Kyogo had the pace to get into the heart of the box, and the physical presence to hold-off a belated challenge from Barisic to double Celtic’s lead.
Newco had an excellent chance to level with the score at 1-0. Callum McGregor tried to steal the ball inside the Newco half but missed. Tillman ran 40 yards before passing to Kent, who did well to hit the post. The rebound fell to Sakala, who had the goal gaping albeit from a tight angle. His bottle crashed, or maybe he’s just not that good. Like Goldson, he takes a lot of responsibility for the defeat.
Newco’s goal was also the result of slack defending. A set-piece cross should never be allowed to bounce inside the six-yard box. Morelos got a shove on Mooy, which bought him space. Alistair Johnston was in a perfect position to head but never once looked at the ball, instead he studied Goldson, leaving unattended space where none should be.
The sight of Morelos celebrating without a single team-mate congratulating him spoke volumes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cup final goal scorer ignored like this.
The game ended with Celtic’s substitutes strolling through Newco. Matt O’Riley and Sead Haksabanovic could have scored three between them. Sead in particular, did well.
We should have had a penalty kick on 20 minutes. Kyogo knocked the ball outside Newco keeper McGregor, who then clattered into the Celtic striker, but the referee was not interested. It made no difference, so you and I will move on, but be clear: Kyogo controlled the ball, knocked it to his right, then McGregor made contact with both Kyogo’s legs. The keeper never touched the ball. It was of the stonewall variety.
Congratulations to Ange and the players. Our sixth League Cup win in seven years; it’s not a bad old life. More on the consequences of this later – and there are plenty.