Yesterday at 12.30 Celtic Park fell silent to remember one of the clubs greatest ever players. It was with deep sadness that the Celtic family awoke to the news on Thursday morning of Tommy Gemmell’s passing. Tommy is a player who will be forever etched in Celtic folklore and how fitting on a day where Celtic won the game coming from behind, it was a full back who scored.
Brendan Rodgers had decided to stick with the same side which made light work of Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Wednesday night. The game started with equal possession for both sides, with Celtic having the first real opportunity when Gary Mackay-Steven was played in by Stuart Armstrong. However, Mackay-Steven got into a bit of a twist and did not manage to strike the ball cleanly.
Shortly after St Mirren were given a free-kick from around the half-way line. Celtic were caught off-guard when Stevie Mallan slipped Cammy Smith in down the left-hand side. Smith’s cross was met with a header from John Sutton which was knocked down to Harry Davis, the saints had taken the lead. Davis became the first player to score against Celtic in domestic cup competition this season.
After the Saints goal the crowd started to get on the teams back a bit. Celtic were very slack in possession with no great tempo to their game.
Before the interval the team managed to work a good passing move together, Scott Brown’s ball across the face of goal was unfortunately not met well by the in-form striker Moussa Dembele.
Rodgers immediately changed the team for the second-half with Mackay-Steven being replaced by Patrick Roberts after a disappointing first-half performance.
When the game resumed for the second-half, St Mirren were given another opportunity after Nir Bitton gave away a stupid free-kick outside the penalty area. Mallan again stepped up to take the set-piece which almost resulted in St Mirren doubling their advantage. Dembele completely sliced the ball which then cracked against Craig Gordon’s crossbar.
Another sub was to prove imperative in the match with Leigh Griffiths replacing Nir Bitton in the fifty-fourth minute. Shortly after the change Griffiths burst away down the right-hand side, only to be fouled by Stelios Demetriou which resulted in a booking for the Cypriote full-back.
Patrick Roberts then delivered in a beautiful ball which got the faintest of touches from Mikael Lustig to bring the Hoops back level. It would almost be fate that on the day we remember Tommy Gemmell, the Celtic full-back would score the equaliser.
Celtic then started to show their ability and class when Griffiths played a brilliant ball to Scott Sinclair who cut inside and elegantly lifted the ball into the Saints net within a minute of the Lustig equaliser.
Celtic completely upped the intensity of their play and grabbed a third which was made by Sinclair. He won the ball in his own half, charged forward, gave it wide to Roberts, continued his run, received the ball back from Roberts to place the ball across the face of goal for Moussa Dembele to get his thirty-second goal of the season.
This again was poignant, as in the early stages of the move Tommy Gemmell appeared on the screen at Celtic Park in the sixty-seventh minute tribute to the Lisbon Lions. Ten minutes after this a fourth goal came after Leigh Griffiths smashed the ball home from around twenty-five yards to get his fourteenth goal of the season
In the first half, Celtic didn’t look sharp at all, with St Mirren playing very stubbornly. The game was completely turned on its head in the second-half when the Bhoys started to show their class and ability. Celtic were given a semi-final draw by Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld against Rangers.
Overall, all that really mattered about today’s game was that we progressed into the semi-final of the Scottish Cup at Hampden along with remembering a club icon and legend who in a decade made 418 appearances for Celtic scoring 63 goals and winning 14 Major honours which of course include the European Cup.
For any of those wanting to pay their final respects to Tommy, the funeral procession will leave Celtic Park at 11.30am on its way to Daldowie Crematorium this coming Friday 10th March.