THE CELTIC CLASS OF 2016/17, HALF TERM REPORT – PART 1 was posted earlier this morning on CQN. If you missed it you can catch up by clicking HERE, now on with the report…
EXUBERANCE and endurance are never far away in the world of football as Celtic discovered within four days in September.
On September 10, Brendan Rodgers led the champions to a breathtaking 5-1 triumph over their Ibrox opponents, a victory that had Parkhead rocking to its foundations with a home support celebrating big style.
The next confrontation turned out to be a different ball-game altogether. The opening Champions League group game against the mighty Barcelona at the Nou Camp beckoned and the Hoops were about to go into the history books.
Alas, for all the wrong reasons. Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez proved to be unstoppable as the Catalans pulverised their way to a 7-0 triumph – the worst result Celtic had ever suffered in European competition.
Ironically, the previous worst was at the same ground three years earlier as Neil Lennon’s men were bombarded 6-1.
The first ever Premiership meeting with Sevco Rangers was a much more enjoyable occasion for the Hoops fans!
There was drama even before the kick-off when top scorer Leigh Griffiths failed a late fitness test and Rodgers handed the main striking role to Moussa Dembele.
The 20-year-old attacker, without a league goal to his name and still awaiting his call-up to the French Under-21 international squad, had the performance players can only dream about – the perfect hat-trick as the Hoops ran amok.
Dembele netted with a header and right and left foot shots to pile the misery on the visitors. There was a brief flutter when Joe Garner pulled one back, but normal service was swiftly resumed.
The curtain came down with Sinclair, scoring in his fourth successive Premiership game, and the on-fire Stuart Armstrong, a second-half substitute for Nir Bitton, sliding shots beyond the bewildered and overworked Wes Foderingham.
A delighted Rodgers observed: “The occasion was everything I expected – and more.”
Unfortunately, the tables were turned in Barcelona when Dorus de Vries conceded seven with Messi firing in the first in the opening minutes after the Hoops defence went to sleep at a left-wing corner-kick.
Dembele, hat-trick hero at the weekend, scorned the opportunity of a leveller from the penalty spot and, a couple of minutes later, Messi plonked a second beyond De Vries.
The floodgates were opened shortly after the turnaround when Brazilian Neymar scored with a long-range free-kick that swirled over the hands of Celtic’s new keeper, looking far from impressive in only his third game for the club.
Four more efforts were tucked into the Celtic net – with Messi completing his hat-trick – as they collapsed under the incessant onslaught from the classy Spaniards.
Undoubtedly, the result was a shattering blow to Rodgers and his players, including Cristian Gamboa who made his debut at right-back that evening. There have been better first appearances!
A few days later, the Hoops travelled to Inverness to take on Caley Thistle who had become a bit of a jinx team to the Glasgow giants and managers such as John Barnes, Martin O’Neill, Neil Lennon and Ronny Deila.
Would Brendan Rodgers be included in the list? Celtic dominated virtually from start to finish and, after hitting the woodwork three times and being repelled by an inspired goalkeeper, were leading 2-1 in stoppage time with goals from Sinclair and Rogic.
The Highlanders tried one last thrust as the Hoops defence didn’t pick up the second ball following a free-kick. A cross was flighted in from the right and substitute Alex Fisher was unmarked as he guided a header wide of the scrambling De Vries.
Celtic’s perfect league record ended in that instant. Undoubtedly, a lesson was learned.
Progress in the Betfred League Cup was maintained when the battling part-timers Alloa went down 2-0 with late goals from Forrest and Dembele.
The game saw the return to goal of Craig Gordon, but he was on the bench again the following weekend when Kilmarnock were the visitors.
De Vries, after conceding a remarkable 40-yard goal, was injured and remained in the dressing room at the interval. Gordon reappeared, Celtic won 6-1 and the shotstopper has been there ever since.
The curtain came down in September on Wednesday the 28th when Pep Guardiola’s multi-millionaires of Manchester City, unbeaten in England, arrived in town for the second Champions League confrontation of Group C.
Amazingly, Rodgers’ side led three times with a double from the ever-improving Dembele and a single from Kieran Tierney, but the home side had to settle for a point in a 3-3 stalemate.
It had been a massive improvement on the previous outing in the catalan capital.
TO BE CONTINUED ON CQN – PART 3 WILL BE PUBLISHED THIS EVENING.
*This week we have been running a very popular offer on CQN Bookstore – when you buy THAT SEASON IN PARADISE – TEN MONTHS OF CELTIC HEAVEN, not only is your copy personally signed by Lisbon Lion BERTIE AULD but you also receive a FREE copy of The Winds of Change – signed by ex-Celtic manager DAVIE HAY and a great Celtic DVD from 2012-13 season.
We only have FOUR left though and this offer can’t be repeated so hurry! You get all of the above for just £15.99 plus p&p so it’s an outstanding deal.
All orders this week have been posted except those from last night which will be going this morning.
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