Pretenders 0 – 2 Champions
Well there we go.
Never in doubt was it?
From that first kick off deep into touch which had all the watching fans saying “WTF?” ( Just imagine what Stevie G and Gary McA were saying on seeing that!) to the final run and goal from Johnny Hayes, Celtic simply executed the perfect game plan and laid down a real marker to the pretenders.
Every Celtic player knew their role and gave their all. Every starter ran their heart out and then every sub did the same.
Anyone worried about us being a bit fragile or lightweight needn’t have worried as the Hooped professionals covered space perfectly and gave potential threats like Tavernier nowhere to run. With Rangers contained, Celtic grew in confidence and began to push forward and even when Jermaine Defoe thought his chance had actually came, there was the excellent Elhamed to slide in and poke the ball out for a corner with aplomb.
The media had made a big deal about Celtic newbies in Bolingoli, Jullien and Elhamed facing such a big game but all 3 were excellent. A few eyebrows were raised when Bitton was declared as partnering Jullien with Ajer and Jozo posted missing. Big Nir strolled through the game before having to go off after tweaking his hamstring. On came SomePeopleCallMe Moritz Bauer at right back and Elhamed stepped inside…again, any worries were unfounded as both guys finished the game strongly.
An important aspect to note is also seeing the new guys taking such hard hits and just getting up and shaking them off. Elhamed took a sore one and recovered, Bolingoli was attacked by a studs up Ryan Jack, was soon smiling again, Jullien just had to laugh at Morelos trying a sneaky stamp on his toes and Moritz knocked the ball passed WATP Jordan Jones who then lashed out. As Moritz looked up, he could see Madden showing Jones red. Every one of our new guys now know for sure what our opponents are all about and even better out opponents know they cannot be intimidated by silly erratic tackles or sheer malice.
The brilliant defensive line up was expertly protected by Broony and Calmac. Our class duo controlled the game with ease and showed an inner strength many in the Media had thought posted missing. With our bases covered at the back, lets look up front.
The score was 2-0 but could have been 3,4 or 5.
James Forrest appeared tired but again, his priority was close down space and help Elhamed when needed. Christie too wasn’t as dynamic as usual but ran himself into the ground. Mikey Johnston danced where possible and just when we though he was waning, up he stepped with a perfect pass. Ntcham when he came on was just sublime and Johnny Hayes scoring was a delight. The highlight and sheer heart pumping inspiration though came from Eddy up front,
As ever class rose to the top and when Goldson was forced into a silly pass that went straight to Mikey Johnston, Johnston strode forward, looked up and played the perfect pass to Odsonne who had kept himself exactly inline with the final defender. No one, not even the most blinkered of Rangers fans, doubted for a second that big Eddy would slide the ball past the prostrate MacGregor and into the back of the net…1-0 and cruising.
Eddy was simply outstanding. At one point he was up against 3 defenders. Did he panic? Not a chance, he simply turned, turned again, then again, before passing the ball to a team mate leaving the Rangers players chasing shadows. All of this was in a space of a few yards. Sublime skill from our star forward.
The wonderful sight of watching Eddy link up with Ntcham in the last 20 minutes was stunning at times and the Rangers players looked like they were running in Matrix time in comparison to the classy French duo who twisted and turned them inside and out. When they both linked up to release the energetic Johnny Hayes for his goal, it was a brilliant counter attack and such play bodes well for the EL Group campaign ahead.
Please god don’t let any French side try and entice our man Eddy away before the window closes.
That only leaves the most important man till last.
What a masterful and professional managerial performance from our manager. Lets consider when he and his Mgmt team achieved:
- He analysed the opposition and swatted them away with ease, in their own back yard.
- He took all the criticism of himself, his players and his club and he channelled a positive response.
- He protected new players from criticism and they produced the game of their Celtic lives.
- He managed to prepare a new defensive line-up to be as tight as a drum.
- He steered a tired squad through a few major weeks of intense pressure.
- He has laid down a firm marker that no-one can contest. Any challengers now know what they are up against.
In the post match Press conference, Lenny deservedly took his opportunity to address all the doubters, the TV and Press Media and also including Celtic fans and well done as he was totally vindicated after a brilliant result in Stockholm and a brilliant result in Glasgow.
Hopefully he enjoys a few days break as we enter the International match period.
Bravo Lenny, bravo.
PS..Sorry, I almost forgot Fraser Forster was playing. To be fair, so did the big man after such a quiet afternoon!