Odsonne Edouard put Celtic ahead against Newco yesterday on 27 minutes with the game’s outstanding move. He collected a breath-taking first-time pass from James Forrest on the halfway line, evading Connor Goldson in the process, before pulling left then right, and despatching a left foot shot past a helpless Allan McGregor. It gave the champions a deserved lead.
If there is a manager in Scotland who does not send his team out to wind up Alfredo Morales he is missing a trick. Steven Gerrard has provided the Columbian with excuses for his litany of red cards all season, but finally relented and before leaving Celtic Park informed the player he would be fined. It was too little, too late, to prevent, the damage of record levels of indiscipline was done.
Jonny Hayes picked up a first half booking and with Newco down to 10 men, he was sacrificed for the more attack minded Scott Sinclair. Despite Celtic having a man advantage, with Ntcham flagging, Newco gained control of the middle of the park. Ryan Kent scored a fine goal, and while it was Newco’s first attempt of the game, it came as no surprise.
Tom Rogic came on for Ntcham a minute later but the big Aussie, so often the scourge of Newco, was well short of match sharpness.
Kieran Tierney passed a late fitness test but was forced to retire on 73 minutes. Just a minute later Dedryck Boyata hobbled off. With Celtic having made all their substitutes, the game was set for a 10 v 10 finale.
With a mind on our midfield casualty list, on Friday I suggested winning control of that area of the field unlikely and unnecessary, as Newco’s defensive anxiety was likely to settle the outcome. This proved to be the case.
Newco gave at least as good as they got during the closing period of the game, but whereas Celtic were rock solid defensively, James Tavernier would provide the self-inflicted blow to the visitors. It was a classic, ‘What’s the right back doin’, Tom?’ moment.
His under-hit pass on 86 minutes was collected by Callum McGregor, who immediately despatched the ball Edouard on the edge of the area. The Celtic striker drew the Newco defence left, opening space for James Forrest, who he then released with time and space to control before finding the net.
As though to prove that indiscipline at Newco was not only a problem limited to Morales, Kent punched Scott Brown on the face before play resumed, an incident which was missed by the officials but not TV cameras. A retrospective ban will be on its way.
The drama continued through five minutes of added time, with Kristoffer Ajer making an incredible saving tackle inside the six-yard box to deny Joe Worrall.
You will remember Scott Brown making little of being assaulted by a Newco fan at Ibrox in 2017. The man has been provoked more than anyone in Scottish football since Neil Lennon, but unlike Morales, he does not retaliate with violence. The sight of Scott celebrating with eight fingers in the air at full time in front of the Newco support was intolerable to the already-booked Andy Halliday, who could not contain his rage and collected his second yellow card in the tunnel.
It is eight, Andy, as in eight-in-a-row, one less than nine, two less than 10, not that things will change at 10-in-a-row. This is what the future looks like. Scott Brown will soon need to take his socks and boots off to continue this motif.
Post-match, Steven Gerrard said he would have reacted the same was as Halliday in similar circumstances, proving they are both too stupid to be on the field with Scott Brown. Gerrard should consider how his own flaws continue to influence his team’s discipline. If he believes his players have an issue with discipline, but continues to provide cover for them, he is the real problem.