The manager got the big calls right. Moussa Dembele’s form has shaded recently, while Leigh Griffiths has been scoring freely, so the latter was the form horse. Not only did Moussa score the equaliser, Newco found it impossible to deal with him throughout.
His circumference of control with the ball at his feet is considerable. I’m not going to burden him with the ‘new Dalglish’ tag, but that ability to shield the ball in tight areas takes me back to my early days watching Celtic. Kenny did this to great effect, creating space for others as he used his strength and close-control to create havoc.
Kenny Millar’s opening goal had been in the post from the first minute as Newco pressurised Celtic off their game. They were the team forcing mistakes of nervous looking defenders (I’m looking at you, Erik). Celtic just didn’t get going early on as the home team controlled midfield with Barrie McKay in particular causing problems.
The turning point came around the time Scott Brown picked up his yellow card (deservedly). It was a typically-calculated Brown intervention.
Moussa’s goal was quite unbelievable. The corner came from a breakaway chance when Scott Sinclair seemed to lose the opportunity by standing on the ball, but recovered to run at the Newco defence before firing a shot which was deflected onto the inside of the post before being knocked behind by a defender for a corner.
Dembele was standing 8 yards out when a high corner fell to his feet. Unchallenged. The ball bounced head-height but Moussa still had time to wait on it falling before finishing into the top corner.
Danny Wilson was marking him when the corner was taken but for reasons all too evident to those who have followed the player’s recent form, he left Celtic’s striker to challenge players already marked. It was an unfathomable mistake.
From that moment on, there was only going to be one result. Celtic should have gone ahead three times in the opening nine minutes of the second half. Their passing was now crisp and fast. Sinclair and Armstrong’s movement made defenders look statuesque.
One stat I’d like to see is the number of touches we had inside the opposition box. We spent a lot of time in there, pinging tight passes, which opened up the home defence. Dembele, Forrest, Sinclair and Armstrong should all have added to the score but Foderingham made himself big throughout and stopped the result from being as embarrassing as the performance.
Forrest made way for Patrick Roberts, who, at his first involvement, released Armstrong with a reverse pass into the box. Celtic had been in this position many times in the minutes beforehand. Their format was to cut the ball back, which is what we were all expecting Armstrong to do, but he released the ball a fraction of a second early across the face of goal for Sinclair to side-foot into the net at the far post.
Craig Gordon had a few comfortable saves, which he dealt with assuredly. Sviatchenko made up for two early poor touches by making the tackle of the game to deny Forrester. Emilio Izaguirre put in his best 45 minutes of the season in the second half; he looked like the player who arrived six years ago.
Mikael Lustig sprinted 40 yards across field to cut-out a breakaway inside the box. Big Jozo Simunovic must be wondering when kick-off is, he didn’t break sweat.
Off-piste mention to Leigh Griffiths, who was warming up behind the goal when the guy who kept him out the team picked himself up off the turf after a fruitless effort. Leigh stepped forward and patted his team-competitor on the back three times while shouting encouragement.
Great team-mates make great teams.
Have a Happy New Year, everyone.