From the stands, you follow most goals as they mature from chances, but some happen so quickly and unexpectedly, that in the middle of celebrations, there is a part of your brain that wonders, what actually happened there?
Twice yesterday, Celtic constructed a goal from seemingly nowhere. Hibernian took the lead, we took kick-off and Callum McGregor had possession around halfway on the touchline. There followed a 40 yard pass and the most sublime touch imaginable.
Kyogo Furuhashi was facing away from goal, his body on the wrong side of the ball. The keeper narrowed the angle but before anyone in the stadium knew what was happening, the Japanese striker found the corner of the net with a left foot shot. David Gray, the Hibernian interim manager would be entitled to ask, “What happened?” There were 10 seconds between kick-off and goal.
I was fortunate enough to be at Hampden yesterday and at Celtic Park on 27 August 2000 and witnessed two incredible lobs sail into the net from two incredible strikers. The marvel that Henrik Larsson’s goal against Rangers induced was every bit as evident yesterday. After that game in 2000, Martin O’Neill spoke of his ire when the ball left Henrik’s foot, “Players try these lobs but never work.” For most occasions, he was not wrong. The talent required is exceptional.
The first thing Kyogo did was catch the eye of Tom Rogic, Tom knew what to do next. The Hibs defence were not involved in the covert communication, so were late to the party, so much so, that if you watch the replay (I’m sure you have), Kyogo has time to check his run and wait for the ball to drop a little. The finish, ooft! What a special talent we have.
Much of the credit for a great final goes to Hibernian. Overwhelmed by talent and resources, they were within the width of a post in the 94th minute of sending the game into extra time. For a team that never managed to stage an attack until a defensive lapse gave them a corner kick in the 51st minute, that was a performance at the limit of their collective abilities.
Kevin Nisbet got the better of Carl Starfelt throughout. On one occasion, winning a corner kick that let to the Hibs goal, on another, it took the first of two magnificent saves from Joe Hart to deny the Hibs striker. Without Hart, it could have been a different story. Teams we face in the coming weeks will have a plan for Starfelt, so must we.
That’s the first of our trophies back home. The weeks and months ahead will bring greater challenges, but amid the burning embers of 2021, we assembled talented people for the cause. They now look like writing the next great chapter in the Celtic Story.