Celtic’s run of 27 games unbeaten in domestic football came to an end yesterday as Kilmarnock surprised even their own fans, who bought fewer tickets for the final than they did for the semi-final, perhaps anticipating a reversal.
The bedrock of that magnificent run has been incredibly strong defensive performances; even when Aberdeen scored to take a point earlier this month, their goal benefited from an enormous deflection and the interaction of two debutant defenders.
Kilmarnock’s goal yesterday benefited from no such fortune. Ki didn’t match the forward run of Lee Johnson and Kelvin Wilson didn’t attack the cross. It was, however, a good goal, exploiting the expansive Hampden pitch with some fine passing and excellent movement.
Cammy Bell deservedly won Man of the Match but none of his many saves were spectacular. It could be argued that the stop from Gary Hooper five minutes in turned the match but it was a gift to Bell’s highlights DVD.
Celtic looked like a team who have run out of steam. Profligacy in front of goal and a momentary lapse in defence was all Kilmarnock needed to secure the cup.
I didn’t get a good view of the Anthony Stokes penalty incident at the game, it was Hampden after all, but on the radio going home I heard the evidence clearly confirmed it was not a penalty, which Neil Lennon would realise after he calmed down a bit, despite his initial reaction on seeing a replay.
Television evidence could not be clearer. Michael Nelson went to ground to tackle Stokes and didn’t come within 2 feet of the ball but clipped the Celtic player’s ankle while he was in the process of controlling a fast moving ball.
There was no dispute that Stokes ankle was clipped. No claims were made that Nelson played the ball, or even got close to playing the ball. The incident was an indisputable foul.
When you are running at speed the contact required to force you to lose to lose control of the ball is slight, more than enough contact was made on Stokes to hugely reduce his chances of scoring. Nelson made a rash and ill-timed challenge which should have resulted in an injury-time penalty.
Our sincerest condolences to the Liam Kelly, his family, Kenny Shiels and the Kilmarnock players on the death of Liam’s father Jack in the minutes after full time.
Check out ‘Celtic in the 1980s: The Lost Decade’, by CQN Magazine contributor, Sean Huddleston. Available on Kindle for a bargain £1.64.
Issue 7 of CQN Magazine is out now! Go to the dedicated magazine site here to read it properly (which you’ll not be able to do below).
We are now shipping hard copies of the magazine from the UK – and sold out last month. Order your copy by clicking on the link below.
Pay by card or Paypal.
You can support the online edition by making a discretionary donation here.