Before we get into some proper reflections on yesterday’s game, can we pay a moment’s respect to the passing of the careers of Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe, who respectively spent 15 and 20 years in professional football. I know we will all wish them the very best on their lives after football – starting today.
Without a word of a lie, when I sat down to write this, I had to go back and confirm that Glen Kamara started the game. Scott Brown has seen them come and go in his 12 years at Celtic. When any of them win against the champions, he’s often the man opponents delight at getting the better off. Kamara did just that on social media in May after the Ibrox club’s win over Celtic. You could set your watch for Scott dominating the former Dundee player. Yesterday, Kamara looked like what he is, a £50k signing who cannot cast a shadow on the Celtic captain.
On Friday we talked about the bedwetters who were worried about the challenge from Newco this season. They added a load of duds, mostly free transfers, to a squad that won nothing and they had people, who should have known better, worried about the Treble Treble winners facing them. Newco signed 10 players this summer, 10 PLAYERS!! Nine of them were not good enough to get into that pathetic starting line up. Gerrard has not signed playing assets, he’s added financial liabilities!
I don’t remember the last time we saw such a makeshift Celtic defence start a big game. Jozo Simunovic and Kris Ajer both failed late fitness tests. Hatem Elhamed missed the previous three games through injury, and had only made five appearances for Celtic, but he was patched up and played at right back. His fellow Israeli, Nir Bitton (new contract please), was asked to fill in at central defence alongside Christopher Jullien. The latter is beginning to look like a £7m euro bargain.
Newco fans thought they would rip Boli Bolingoli apart (perhaps they had CQN comments pages). Boli absolutely bossed the left flank. On several occasions, he took an extra touch under pressure, showing the kind of composure you get from someone who turns up ‘ready’, as Oldco were fond of saying. He and Christopher Jullien are yet to experience defeat at Celtic.
Defending well will get you a point, but if you want to win a game, you need to put the ball in the net. With 32 minutes gone, Celtic were well on top, but the game needed a chance. Fortunately, Newco defender Connor Goldson (soon to be found playing golf at the weekend with Davis and Defoe) was in possession to play an immaculate pass onto the toe of Mikey Johnston. Mikey took the ball from the halfway line before releasing Odsonne Edouard. From that moment, the whole of Ibrox knew the outcome. The French striker closed in on goal before slipping the ball below the keeper. We have so many match winners just waiting for an opening.
You, me and just about everyone else criticised Neil Lennon for his tactics against Cluj, but what a masterclass from the Lurgan Lion yesterday. He sent players into a hostile environment with a coolness not seen in Glasgow, since Barry White last crooned into the microphone around these parts. We dominated the game, could easily have scored more, and did not concede a chance worthy of the name.
The front four: Odsonne Edouard, James Forrest, Ryan Christie and Mikey Johnston were scintillating. Olivier Ntcham was at his incisive best when he replaced James. He linked with Odsonne and Johnny Hayes to create the clinching second goal. I have been critical of Olivier, but when he turns up, he is unplayable.
All that was left was for Jordan Jones, Ryan Jack and Alfredo Morelos to demonstrate that Steven Gerrard’s talk about improving discipline is a mirage. It is disingenuous of Gerrard to criticise Jones, but overlook Morelos stamping on Jullien, and elbowing and kicking Scott Brown, and Jack’s studs-to-the-knee lunge at Bolingoli. Referee Bobby Madden did not see Morelos’ attacks, so you would assume the SFA Compliance Officer will be involved. Surely? The tifo display, showing a Celtic fan on the ground with a figure holding a bloodied sword over him is more sinister than I can remember at any football game. Is this acceptable to Newco, never mind the SFA?
They remain loyal thugs, but now they know the reality. This is the 9-in-a-row season and there’s nothing they can do about it.