If you’re my age, you’ve seen Oldco and Newco lose hundreds of goals to Celtic. In all that time, can you recall as amateurish a goal to concede as yesterday’s? We all thought we’d see the worst of them when they came to Celtic a month ago. Davies and Souttar made individual errors that were bad enough, but in all my football watching life, I’ve never seen a defence switch off anticipating a foul against them that was never awarded, then compond that error so spectacularly.
When Callum McGregor took a short free kick for Celtic, the Newco defence and midfield were all in place. Kent, Rankin, Lundstram and Arfield were goal-side, behind them were four defenders and the keeper. Only Cantwell and Morelos were ahead of the ball.
Kent was ball-watching, so allowed a pass to Matt O’Riley. Raskin body checked O’Riley on the edge of the area and remarkably stood still with his hands in the air in a Surrender pose. Daizen Maeda was between Davies and Barasic, both were on their heels. Maeda was in front of Barasic before the defender understood what his job was.
At this point, Davies, still on his heels, decides to chastise Barasic, with a rapid clap of the hands, then outstretching his arms, expressing despair at his team-mate’s lapse – he made no positive contribution. Maeda took a touch then whipped in a cross. During this part of the move, Davies remains a spectator, guarding no one. Goldson is marking Kyogo and repeatedly glances at the striker, as good defenders know to do.
The Newco defence is in a fairly straight line, with Tavernier picking up Jota at the far post, but unlike Goldson, Tavernier does not look to see where Jota is once, he focuses on the ball. When Maeda crosses, Jota is a yard behind Tavernier but he’s already on the move, Tavernier, like the thousands of fans behind him, is just watching.
Jota meets the ball four yards from goal, between the posts and does not even have to jump. As Jota runs away to celebrate, Goldson turns to his captain in despair. It was a fairly even game, so it may look like small margins determined the outcome, but this was no small margin. There was only one team on the field capable of conceding that goal. Newco dominated the middle of the park for long periods, but Celtic have a far better defence and attack. There are no awards for unproductive possession.
Reo Hatate returned for his first outing in six weeks and his performance never reached the levels we saw before his injury. Callum McGregor was often crowded out, resulting in a few unaccustomed errors. We did not look solid in the middle until Aaron Mooy bedded into the game after coming on as a second half substitute. It was not pretty in the middle, but it sure was effective.
Tavernier could not have come closer to scoring when his effort from the edge of the area rebounded off the inside of the post, resulting in a Groundhog Day moment for Fashion Sakala. When the teams met at the League Cup Final in February, Sakala had an open goal from a tight angle but hit the side net. Yesterday, when the ball rebounded off the post, Sakala was presented with the same chance, at the same end of the ground. Just as he did in February, he again hit the side net. All players miss great chances but good ones tend not to double down.
Cameron Carter-Vickers took Man of the Match award, although it could just as easily went to Daizen Maeda, who continues to grow as a Celtic player. Special mention to Anthony Ralston, who before yesterday had only made one appearance in 2023. Everything about him was on-point.
Congratulations, Celtic, on a great win. And I think we’ve all seen enough of Inverness in the Scottish Cup to have none of this talk about the treble until it’s done.