Whenever the next History of Celtic is written, yesterday’s 1-2 win at Tynecastle will hardly merit a mention, but right now, it feels like a hugely significant night. You, me and everyone else in the country know that if Celtic can win a game like that in the 93rd minute, they are going to win the league.
A few observations:
Passing the ball along our own 6 yard line was always likely to lead to conceding a goal. It looked like an individual error but it was actually a systemic mistake. Notwithstanding this, we need to stick with the plan. Opponents pack tight against Celtic, anything we can do that will tempt them forward, like passing this deep in our own box, should be done. The answer is to get better at it.
I was worried when I saw Jeremy Toljan substituted for Mikael Lustig, the latter a player Neil Lennon signed for Celtic. The worry is that players will suspect that Neil is favouring one of this own. Jeremy should be back in the starting line up on Saturday.
Just as important as not having favourites, is making sure players who are only here for a few months are kept on their toes. If Mikael can be used to get the best out of Jeremy, use him. We have seen a few defenders arrive from the Bundesliga (Andreas, Edson, Marvin) who never convinced they gave everything they had.
When Neil Lennon’s excitement at getting the job died down, his mood must have dropped at the realisation he would have to play such an unfamiliar central mid combination.
While there was a large period of the game when we had a man advantage but still did not dominate midfield, we saw three good individual performances. Nir Bitton was at his deep lying best, even if he gave possession away twice by shooting from ridiculous distances. Scott Brown’s contribution for the winner was delicious.
Pass of the night came from Ewan Henderson, who took the Hearts midfield out of the game with a 40 yard slide-ruler to Scott Sinclair for the opening goal.
Five minutes before half time I predicted Hearts would get a man sent off before the break (I have witnesses). Craig Levein bemoaned Jamie Brandon’s recklessness after the game, but it was in keeping with the rest of his teammates until that point. Hearts figured their best chance was to batter Celtic players into hiding. Levein should consider his part in the red card. It was a consequence of Hearts’ tactics.
The only concern on the night came elsewhere. Hibs won their fourth game in succession, away and with 10 men. Saturday’s Scottish Cup quarterfinal will be an epic.