RANGERS 3 CELTIC 0
SHAMBOLIC Celtic got lost in a maze of mistakes in their worst performance of the season in the full glare of bright sunshine at Ibrox this afternoon.
The fact that the champions managed to get only one shot on target in the entire match tells its own sad story. It was such a dreadful display that it is a nigh-impossible task to pick a solitary Hoops player who got passmarks.
Anthony Ralston didn’t do much wrong – but, alas, the same could not be said for anyone else wearing green and white hoops in Govan. It was THAT bad.
That includes skipper Callum McGregor who struggled to make any impact and combined with Carl Starfelt, another who was way off the pace, to gift their opponents the killer third goal in the second-half.
This game proved the massive worth to Cameron Carter-Vickers to the central defence. The Swede is not dominant enough to be the main man.
MIDFIELD TUSSLE…Reo Hatate battles for possession with Todd Cantwell as Callum McGregor looks on.
Looking on the positive side, you have to hope this is a wretched offering from the players out of their system and there will be no repeat with a treble on the line when they face Championship opposition in Inverness Caley Thistle in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden on Saturday June 3.
And the likes of Oh Hyeon-gyu, who missed a glorious opportunity and had only seven touches of the ball in his 63 minutes on the pitch, Alexandro Bernabei and Yuki Kobayashi will have learned from a chastening experience.
Basically, this was an unacceptable display from the Parkhead side who allowed themselves to be bossed by the opposition. It’s difficult to accept, but the Hoops were second best on the day.
It doesn’t matter that it was completely meaningless as far as points were concerned. There was pride at stake and, on this occasion in a largely memorable campaign, the players did not produce the goods.
In an error-strewn first-half they presented the hosts with two goals of a lead and waywardly surrendered possession all over the pitch to fired-up opponents who charged around as though they had something to prove.
It was a mesmerisingly awful opening period from the champions who had too many players on the pitch who were contributing very little to the cause.
GOOD SPORT…Ange Postecoglou prepares to shake hands with Connor Goldson at full-time.
The sloppy start was emphasised by the concession of the first goal in only five minutes when the visitors paid a heavy price for a sequence of sloppiness.
For a start, John Lundstram had the freedom of Govan when no-one picked him in a dangerous area just outside the penalty box as the ball was worked over from the right. He thumped in a wicked effort that presented a problem to Joe Hart as it arrowed in at his left-hand side.
The keeper elected to push rather than punch the drive and the rebound couldn’t have fallen any better for Todd Cantwell. Kobayashi was caught on his heels and the midfielder hit a venomous first-time right-foot drive that zipped through the legs of the Hoops keeper.
That was a diabolical goal to lose on so many levels, but Ange Postecoglou’s men squandered an ideal opportunity to respond within two minutes.
Matt O’Riley and Liel Abada combined before the Israeli slid a superb ball in front of Oh. The South Korean striker was in an excellent position with just keeper Robby McCrorie to beat, but somehow he clipped the outside of the right-hand post and the chance was gone. He should have scored – and he knew it.
Nine minutes later, it was Abada’s turn to pass up a wonderful opportunity. O’Riley and Ralston fashioned an opening on the right and the full-back whipped in a low cross.
Abada was perfectly positioned in front of goal, but he mishit his shot, the effort was blocked and booted clear and the home side breathed a sigh of relief.
GLOVE AFFAIR…rival keepers Joe Hart and Robby McCrorie embrace at full-time.
Worse was to come when Celtic lost a second goal in 34th minute. Once again, it was an effort that would have had the manager sucking out his fillings in exasperation.
The home side were gifted a corner-kick on the right by Starfelt and James Tavernier swung it into the box. It was a straightforward delivery, but the Hoops defenders, with Starfelt and Kobayashi caught dozing, allowed John Souttar a free header and he bulleted an effort beyond the motionless Hart who may have been forgiven if he wondered if his defenders were taking this game seriously.
It was a bit of a surprise when Postecoglou did not put on a raft of substitutes at the interval and waited until the 63rd minute before throwing on Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda for Oh and Abada.
Before that, in the 50th minute, O’Riley produced the team’s solitary shot on target when he robbed Ryan Jack, bamboozled Connor Goldson and tried to loft a shot into the top corner.
Rookie keeper McCrorie read his intentions and got a fingertip to the ball to nudge it over the crossbar.
In the 70th minute, a nonsensical misunderstanding by McGregor and Starfelt allowed Fashion Sakala to run clear, sweep round the unprotected Hart and roll the third into the empty net.
If any moment summed up the dire ineptitude of the Celtic players to get the job done it was produced in that slapstick moment.
There was no surprise when Postecoglou introduced Timoki Iwata, David Turnbull and Sead Haksabanovic for Hatate, Jota and O’Riley four minutes later.
The game limped into obscurity as it reached a sorry conclusion.
Undoubtedly, this showing from some individuals will give Postecoglou something to ponder as he continues his revamp of his squad – especially with Champions League group stage action on the horizon.
TEAM: Hart; Ralston, Starfelt, Kobayashi, Bernabei; O’Riley (sub: Iwata 74), McGregor, Hatate (sub: Turnbull 74); Abada (sub: Haksabanovic 74), Oh (sub: Kyogo 63), Jota (sub: Maeda 63).