Credit to Newco and Steven Gerrard. They controlled much of yesterday’s game at Celtic Park, took their chances, which on this occasion did not all fall to the wasteful Morelos, and deserved their win. For Celtic, the nature of the defeat asks many questions.
The visitors dominated the opening 30 minutes, which were a carbon copy of the League Cup Final between these sides earlier this month. Celtic played the ball forward early throughout this period but it never stuck. The front four: James Forrest, Ryan Christie, Mikey Johnston and Odsonne Edouard were practically spectators.
Kristoffer Ajer disrupted this pattern when he carried the ball through midfield for the first time in the game. This inhibited Newco, and, for a few minutes, Celtic held possession in the final third. In quick succession following this, Celtic won a corner, a subsequent penalty when Christopher Jullien was fouled inside the box and Ryan Christie saw his spot kick saved. Before Newco could count their blessings, they took the lead when Ryan Kent was given space to shoot from 14 yards. The opening goal came during Celtic’s best period of the match thus far, but it was deserved.
Scott Brown, who despite the result was imperious throughout, and Callum McGregor began to impose themselves after going behind. A shot from the latter deflected off Odsonne Edouard, wrong-footed Allan McGregor and drew Celtic level.
The second half did not provide any comfort for the 59,000 Celtic fans. Newco continued to dominate the game before scoring from a free header at a corner kick. Celtic could not hold the ball for 10 seconds.
Neil Lennon reacted on 68 minutes by hooking both Forrest and Johnston for Ntcham and Bitton, and going three at the back. Celtic finally matched Newco in midfield and were able to dominate possession. They created good chances in the closing minutes but it was too little, too late.
Steve Gerrard won the tactical battle, as he did at Hampden, where Celtic took the trophy but not the lessons.
We’ll have a State of the Club piece up tomorrow.