When did we last have a better domestic start to the season than this? We’ve now scored five against Motherwell, four against St Johnstone, four against Aberdeen and now five against the newly promoted team from Govan. And without Leigh! Mind you, in the last three games that Griffiths has missed we’ve scored 17 goals!
At the start of the game it was clear that the Magic Hat had told his players to get in about us and there were some meaty challenges, particularly on Rogic. It came as no surprise though when Collum’s first booking was Bitton! After about ten mins it was clear that our midfield realised we needed to fight for possession and we started to dominate the game. At about a similar time Krancjar started to show his lack of fitness and was lucky to stay on the pitch after some very late tackles. If it wasn’t for the fact that he played for The Rangers I would find it very sad to watch the decline of such a great talent. The talked up (by Bharton and MSM) clash between Brown and Bharton never materialised as Bharton seemed to be avoiding Broonie in the few occasions when he was up with the play.
By about twenty minutes into the game we were fairly encamped in their half,winning most of the balls in midfield, and also discovering that their defenders can’t pass the ball when put under pressure. In fact they’re pretty poor at pass backs too with a handful coming close to being own goals.
Just when I was thinking that we were missing the presence of Griffiths, up stepped Moussa. A good move ended up with a Sinclair shot being blocked for a corner from which Moussa scored with a lovely header. Just as we were settling back in our seats again Moussa scored his most accomplished goal in the hoops to date with a very cool finish. At this point the stadium was bouncing (literally in the case of the North Stand) but our inability to keep a clean sheet bit us again with a sloppy goal being conceded just before half time.
In the old days I would have spent half time in a pretty nervous state after that end of the half but, such was the gulf between the teams, I felt it was still just a question of how many. And so it proved.
Having said that, we didn’t make a great start to the second half (not for the first time this season) and, while they didn’t look like scoring, they had more possession than I was comfortable with. After seven minutes Brendan took off Rogic and put on Armstrong. Not a substitution that was greeted with any great enthusiasm around me but it changed the game. Armstrong was at his best, showing a drive and movement that we had been missing since half time. And the threat from The Rangers dissipated almost immediately.
The last half hour was a party with Celtic Park at its best. Great goals from Sinclair, Dembele and Armstrong showed the gulf in class between the teams and Senderos’s sending off also showed that he isn’t the answer to the chronic problems they have at the back. Windass had some promising runs but, other than that, there was nothing there to cause us (or Aberdeen, Hearts etc) much problem. It even got to the point where the fans were enquiring as to the whereabouts of a certain magic hat!! Near the end of the game Waghorn despaired of getting a penalty and tried a shot from open play which was excellently saved by Dorus, his first for us. If he’s playing on Tuesday he may need to do a few more!
Before the game Brendan acknowledged that there would be a sense of occasion about the match but kept emphasising that it was just another game (and not the reason he came to Celtic!). Watching the match unfold that was exactly how it felt. The team played well,without being spectacular, and stood up to the physical challenge in the early part of the game. As a famous oldco manager once said….it was men against boys.
And now we do have a special game as we head to Barcelona with our beach balls. Glasgow (and Scotland) is Green and White but how will this team perform in Europe? Personally, I feel that this season is a rebuilding one and we’ll have a much better crack at the CL in twelve months time…but this team is doing so well who knows what surprises we have in store! Here we go again!