Sunday was a huge test of Celtic’s apparent return to form. Aberdeen had the luxury of training and preparing for their semi-final, while Celtic travelled to France to play on-form Lille; an exhausting occasion.
Apart from a couple of ominous looking early cross balls, the game was completely controlled by the holders, as they secured yet another domestic cup win: 35 without reply. 100 years from now fans will look back on this period in their record books and wonder at the incessant adulation the Celtic players and manager must surely have received……
Ryan Christie comes in for his fair share of criticism for shooting from distances that beggar belief. When offered inviting space 26 yards from goal he was always going to have a pop; it evaded the despairing lunge of Joe Lewis and found the top right corner of the ‘keeper’s net. It was a symmetrical strike to Mohamed Elyounoussi’s first in Lille.
By this stage, Odsonne Edouard, on his first start since recovering from Covid, passed up a double chance and, as manager Derek McInnes would later observe, the Aberdeen defence were “spooked” by his presence. Tom Rogic crafted the second and final goal of the game when he crossed from an unlikely angle, pitching the ball over Lewis to drop at the far post, where Elyounoussi committed to the cause, and the post*, to score.
There were many tired legs and minds in green and white in the second half but Neil Lennon chose to defend what he had. Aberdeen were given plenty of the ball but were unable to trouble Scott Bain. I was happy to see us play like this, there will be many occasions this season when we will need to shut up shop.
Hearts will attempt to be the first team to win the Scottish Cup in the ‘season’ they were relegated. It will be an historic final either way, as Celtic can become the first club to win four consecutive Scottish Cups, moving clear of the record they share with Aberdeen, Rangers and Queen’s Park.
We have become accustomed to setting records. The Invincible Treble was delicious and the first back-to-back treble historically special in its own right. That it was more of the same, did not make the last Scottish Cup final, also against Hearts, any less tense or celebrated. It is as though each additional achievement makes the next trophy all the more important, to Celtic and to everyone else.
Well done, Celtic.
*the post is receiving therapy.