I know you are as delighted as I am for Callum McGregor. He has matured into a very talented central midfield player. One of our most composed on the ball, his first touch creates space and opens up play.
His 11th minute goal pure gallus, to use the local vernacular. Moussa Dembele did well with his first touch and lay-off into the hole, or to be more precise, the midfield chasm. McGregor sold the Newco defence a ticket to the movies for the afternoon, rolling the ball with the inside of his football, like a carpet bowl, past the cinema contemplating Fotheringham in goal.
Long before this, Celtic imposed their will on the game. As we broke forward, television pictures showed possession stats for the match until that point; Celtic had 85% of the ball. It didn’t stop then, either. Celtic continued to pass and move, dragging hapless shadows in their wake.
I’m going to be flippant about a non-flippant subject, for a moment.
“Right, Leigh, you’re on. Get your trackie off, go to the toilet. We’re out of milk, and you know what Broonie’s like if he doesn’t get his halftime tea, so you better nip to the shop on Aitkenhead Road before you put your top on. And Leigh, bring your lanyard to get back in. Then you can replace Moussa, he’s pulled his hamstring.”
It took Leigh Griffiths 3:17 mins to appear in the technical area after Moussa gave the substitution sign to the bench. I don’t know what was going on, but is an unacceptable delay.
We had possession a few times after Leigh pitched up, but it was a further 3:38 before the ball went out of play, and we were able to compete with 11 men again. Running aimlessly infield with a man waiting to join play offers considerably less utility than knocking it long into touch.
By the time Dembele retired after 26 minutes Newco were punch drunk. Allowing them to play against 10 men for 7:05 mins gave them a breather. They were able to pass the ball for the first time in the match, recharge batteries and get forward. They were unable to do anything with that possession, but Celtic had spent 7 minutes chasing and were not quite as dominant thereafter.
Halliday’s scissor-kick on Patrick Roberts after 3 mins would have resulted in a red card on many other occasions. Scott Brown must consider his suspension appeal stands an excellent chance, if this is the bar.
That wasn’t the end of the treatment dished out to Patrick. Beerman was cautioned for another challenge would could have resulted in more severe action, but the Newco player followed this with a cynical trip on Roberts two minutes later. It should have been a second yellow. Roberts had their number and there was nothing within the rules they could do about it.
The penalty, early in the second half, was a battle between Celtic’s pacey striker, Leigh Griffiths, and Newco’s pacey defender, Tavernier. The latter was schooled by the former. Why Tavernier lunged in so carelessly inside the box will be one of the items on their new manager’s “What’s going on?” list. Griffiths is a huge resource to have on the bench waiting for his chance. He’ll be counting the minutes until Saturday comes.
We were so much on top the temptation to showboat looked irresistible. Lustig, Boyata and Simunovic all ran out of position with the ball when straightforward options were available. As a consequence of this, and similar endeavours, play was more balanced in the final 20 minutes.
When you are so far ahead, there is a temptation to take an extra touch, but that extra touch undermined the system. The Celtic team is not filled with supermen, instead they have a hugely effective system. Stick to the system and we’ll look like supermen, go off piste and it will all get a bit indulgent looking. When we were at our Fabulous Best, we did the simple things very accurately and very quickly until the final third, where we were quicker still, and even more accurate. While we practiced this plan, we were unplayable.
Both teams should improve for the rematch in five days’ time. Newco, surely, cannot be any worse, but Celtic can make more of their dominance.
Raffle for Ibrox Tickets
Do you have a ticket for Ibrox on Saturday? Me neither, but Celtic sponsor, Intelligent Car Leasing, have again given us two tickets to raffle for Mary’s Meals. To win, make a minimum donation of £5 here, then the email confirmation you receive to me, email@example.com with the word “Pedro” in the subject line. Make sure you enclose sufficient contact details, we don’t have a lot of time to arrange ticket collection.
The competition closes tomorrow at 23:00, so entries will be few. I think we’re going to enjoy Saturday, so get in there.