Celtic’s hopes of landing a treble in Ange Postecoglou’s first season in Scottish football came to an end today as Celtic gifted theRangers passage to the Scottish Cup final where they will meet Hearts next month hoping to win the competition for the first time in their history.
Yesterday was a strange one. Shortly after Celtic went 1-0 up I actually turned to my father-in-law and said ‘if Celtic manage to win this playing the way we have done today it will be a killer blow to theRangers mentality going forward’. Then Celtic had that glorious opportunity through Cameron Carter-Vickers to end the match as a contest which unfortunately ricocheted off the crossbar. I think it was Chris Sutton who said at the time ‘could that moment be the turning point’. Sadly, it turned out that it was.
Let’s not sugarcoat anything however. Celtic did not perform well. I would be saying this whether we progressed to the final or not. All I could think throughout the game was that we looked like the team that had just played 120 minutes on Thursday, not them. The Celtic players looked sluggish throughout the whole game and they have had over a week to prepare for this tie. That’s worrying and something Ange Postecoglou and his coaches will have to thoroughly investigate.
Celtic blew it big time today. When we went 1-0 up we should have been good enough to see the game out. theRangers weren’t anything special, far from it. That’s probably what makes the result so disappointing. At 1-0 Celtic were in prime position to advance to the final and be that one stage closer to a treble that you know Ange Postecoglou would have been desperate to claim in his first season at the club, especially with the things said about him in the media in the early stages of his career in Scotland.
There weren’t many who left Hampden today with pass marks. I thought Callum McGregor tried his hardest to influence the game and was hard to fault. The defence also coped well for large parts of the match, especially with corners and free kicks which was encouraging after failing to deal with these situations earlier in the season.
Others failed to turn up today. Tom Rogic, who was sublime against the same opposition just a couple of weeks ago, was anonymous today. His midfield partner Reo Hatate wasn’t much better. The Japanese star came straight off a long season playing for Kawasaki Frontale and into a Celtic team only half way through their campaign. He may be struggling due to basically playing for a year non stop, the fact that Daizen Maeda is still producing the energy levels he is may be nothing short of a miracle.
Liel Abada was handed an excellent opportunity to win back his position in the starting eleven going forward and failed to take it. He has looked so threatening when coming on as a substitute lately, I really was expecting a big performance from him today. Jota was another who was expected to step up and show what he’s all about on the big stage today, but after looking lively initially, he faded like so many of his teammates.
One thing that really worried me was when Juranovic and Taylor came off for Ralston and Welsh. We looked horribly exposed after these substitutions. Ralston was getting embarrassed by Kent at times, his lack of pace being totally exposed. Welsh also looked out of his depth, and the right back position certainly didn’t suit him. His link up play with James Forrest during extra time was a shambles. It will be up to Ange Postecoglou during the summer to decide whether these positions need strengthened going forward. I feel both Ralston and Welsh are good players and could do a job in domestic competition but I certainly wouldn’t want to see them line out next season in a Champions League game.
People have mentioned how badly we missed Giorgos Giakoumakis today, and I’m glad that after today most people will realise how important the big Greek striker is to this team but there was someone I felt we missed even more, Nir Bitton.
Now there has been no mention of why the Israeli international was missing from the bench today, I can only presume it was due to injury otherwise leaving him out was a grave mistake. With 20 mins left, theRangers started to get a foothold back into the game after Celtic’s best spell of the match, it would have been the perfect time to introduce Bitton to help see the game out with Hatate starting to toil.
It’s important Celtic pick themselves up after today as seeing out the league campaign is of vital importance now. If someone had offered us the League and the league cup at the start of this season we would have bit their hand off so even though today was disappointing, we need to reset and refocus our attention on the most important thing this season, winning the league.
In the long run today may be a blessing in disguise. It will dispell any notion anyone may have that we only need to turn up to win these matches. Nothing will be easy and the team need to be ready to give everything they have got in our next two matches against Ross County and theRangers. Win those two and it’s over.
Hopefully today will light a fire inside their belly that drives them on to prove that today was a one off.
Keep your eye on the prize Celtic.
The second Scottish Cup Semi-Final of the weekend was a fiercely contested battle at Hampden Park 🔥
— Scottish Cup (@ScottishCup) April 17, 2022