CELTIC made it Ten in a Row at Hampden this afternoon and in doing so completed the first leg of the quadruple treble. The 1-0 win over the Rangers this afternoon could have significant implications for the way the rest of the season pans out and for Steven Gerrard’s side there will be the realisation that even against a weakened Celtic side, without a recognised centre-forward and with several of the stalwarts not really showing, they could still not beat Celtic.
If not today, when? A moral boosting dead rubber win at the start of May was the only joy they got against Neil Lennon’s side this year. Neil Lennon on the other hand has had three wins – all of them significant, today’s even trophy winning and all of them Beautiful Sundays.
In the days when Tommy Burns’ side would outplay Rangers only for Andy Gorum to break his heart then we’d get hit with the sucker punch. Today was pay-back for all that and if there has been a finer performance from a Celtic goalkeeper against Rangers (either one) then I’ve not seen it. The big man was outstanding.
“Have you ever seen Gerrard win the League“ is the humorous chant but today the Celtic fans leaving the National stadium were singing a new variant, “Have you ever seen Morelos score a goal?” Not against Celtic you haven’t and the chances today he had to break his duck were coming thick and fast.
He did take time out from his missing duties to get involved in the nastier side of his game and he could have easily seen red today if Willie Collum wasn’t carrying around all that personal anxiety resulting from the disgraceful personal attacks the Rangers mounted on him last December.
Gerrard got his tactics right today after flopping badly at Ibrox in September. And with his wide players Forrest (who needs a rest) and Elyounoussi well off the pace, Celtic struggled to get into the game.
The first half produced nothing positive of note from a Celtic perspective other than getting to the break without conceding.
When Neil Lennon had seen enough and sent in Odsonne Edouard for Lewis Morgan – a winger perhaps but a failed experiment as a centre-forward, things changed decisively. Edouard picked up the ball inside their half down near the touch line and Connor Goldson thought it was a good idea to give him a welcome kick.
It wasn’t a good idea it was a fantastic one. Ryan Christie whipped in a wonderful free-kick and big Christopher Jullien came in at the back post to drive the ball low past Allan McGregor to give Celtic the lead from their first shot on target.
Then after Willie Collum played to the crowd at the Rangers end to harshly send off Jeremie Frimpong- who was having a decent game- and give a penalty. It was all down to Morelos to break his duck and swing the advantage towards the Ibrox side. But he had to get the ball past Fraser Forster and that is easier said than done!
Then Edouard showed his class to turn and send Mikey Johnston, who has replaced Elyounoussi at the interval and he was one on one with McGregor but failed to hit the target. It was a painful miss at the time but thankfully not costly.
The last half hour was extraordinary. And one or two things were disgraceful. Tavernier not returning the ball from a throw-in after a foul on Hayes, the late challenge on Jullien from Morelos and the cowardly assault on Hayes from Aribo just before he was subbed spring to mind.
Collum added six minutes but that just extended the agony as Fraser Forster blocked or saved anything that came near his goals. The final whistle sounded and the Rangers players lay on the turf absolutely devastated at the defeat. They had given everything but it still was not enough.
Callum McGregor, who had urged on the support in the closing stages, found s scarf and joined in You’ll Never Walk Alone. Elhamed had his phone out and was filming the support, presumably he’s never seen anything like this. It was joyous.
Celtic can and will play much better than this but today while playing below par we delivered a huge psychological blow to the Ibrox players, manager and hordes.
Their long wait for their first ever trophy continues…
Man of the Match – Fraser Forster