This was a very pleasant first home game of the season in good weather and in front of a decent, but not quite capacity crowd at Celtic Park. The game was virtually over after the heroic performance in Armenia, and in truth this was little more than another pre-season friendly for Celtic, but there was a great deal to be happy about.
The bad news was the sending off of Jozo Simunovich. Jozo does seem to have the unfortunate propensity to pick up red cards. I was not sure about this one. My first reaction was that it would have been in the old days an indirect free kick for dangerous play, but on having seen it on video, the foot was rather high, although I don’t think there was much in the way of violent intent. “Reckless” is the word I would use. It was also stupid.
But it did not matter, for 10 man Celtic were simply so much on top with a great deal of clever play. The penalty award may have been soft, but the first and third goals were superb. There could have been more goals. Indeed if there had had to be more goals, they would have been forthcoming, but Celtic chose to entertain with Callum McGregor outstanding. It is to be hoped that Dembele’s injury is not a serious one.
An interesting insight into Alashkert’s attitude to this game was observed when Celtic scored the first goal with an Alashkert player injured. One suspects that the player was making rather too much of this incident, but the rest of the team didn’t. Not a protest to the referee, no screaming, no hysteria about him not stopping play, no tantrums. Imagine the uproar if it had been the other way round! It seemed that the Armenians had simply given up. They were indeed overawed by the occasion, never having seen such a crowd and such an atmosphere and such a stadium.
It was nice to see the three substitutes coming on. All did well – Ryan Christie, I think, should now be given an extended run in the team, for we know that he has it. Young Mikey Johnston looks a good prospect, and I feared that Scott Sinclair might became the forgotten man of Parkhead after a few dire performances last year. But they all came through their tests with flying colours.
So job done with a great deal of comfort. The atmosphere was first rate, but more sterling tests await, beginning with Rosenborg next Wednesday.