THERE was a mixture of delight and relief for Carl Starfelt when referee Nick Walsh blew for time-up seven minutes over the regulation 90 at Hampden on Sunday.
As the smoke of frantic battle cleared the national stadium after a no-holds-barred Glasgow derby encounter in the Viaplay League Cup Final, the Swedish defender was preparing to pick up his third winners’ medal with Celtic.
A double salvo either side of the interval from Kyogo Furuhashi had sent Michael Beale’s Ibrox side’s hopes of silverware success into oblivion, despite a consolation effort from Alfredo Morelos.
Ange Postecoglou’s relentless troops had won the first trophy of the 2022/23 campaign to set up the opportunity of a spectacular clean sweep.
TREBLE AHEAD…Carl Starfelt in control at Hampden.
No-one was talking about trebles at the weekend, though, and the international back-four operator, who cost £4.2million from Rubin Kazan in August 2021, was simply overjoyed to get over the first hurdle.
Starfelt said: “It was an amazing feeling. For myself, I think it was probably one of the best wins in terms of feeling when they blew the whistle after the game.
“It’s a derby, a trophy, and my family was there which was really nice for me to enjoy the moment with them afterwards.
“It was absolutely up there with one of the best wins I’ve had. It was huge, it was hard to describe the feeling, but it was pure happiness.”
It was an action replay for Starfelt, who, along with his central defensive sidekick Cameron Carter-Vickers, had won a medal in the same competition in his debut campaign when Kyogo again netted two in the 2-1 triumph over Hibs in the grand finale.
SWEDE DREAMS…countrymen Sead Haksabanovic and Carl Starfelt celebrate with the silverware.
Starfelt also played his part in the Hoops’ tenth title success in 11 years when they reclaimed the trophy with four points to spare after the previous term’s fall from grace.
On the countdown to the Hampden collision, Starfelt, speaking to the Celtic View Podcast, added: “You will feel that it is a big week and everyone is a bit more tense. You will see people in training go a little bit harder.
“I try to treat it as a normal game, but the day or days before you will feel the tension – and when you come to warm up on the day you feel it a little bit more.
“You try to do as many things in a normal week as you can do – train normally, eat normally, do the stuff you usually do. I think everyone is different, as well, I think some people like to think more about it earlier in the week and build it up.
PRIZE GUYS…Callum McGregor holds the spoils of war with Carl Starfelt among the celebrating team-mates.
“We know how much it means to the fans. Obviously, you have fans coming up and speaking a little bit about the game. They will be telling you how important it is for them to win. You can feel it a little bit.
“I guess it is a little bit different for the Scottish boys who know so many people in the town. If you come from abroad like me, it’s mostly the people on the streets who come up, to be fair, because you don’t know that many Scottish people.
“I personally like to keep within the group. I feel like if we’re together in whatever happens and we are together on the pitch, you become comfortable and feel security which is important.”
Carry on doing what you’re doing, Carl. It’s a winning formula and you have three medals to prove it.