CELTIC faced Aberdeen this afternoon on the back of ‘the’ Rangers 3-0 win at Easter Road on Friday night.
That result put the Govan side within touching distance of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership. It set a scene. The ball was in Celtic’s court. So how would they respond?
The first half began with what could only be described as an onslaught. Christopher Jullien almost had Celtic in front when an effort off his back hit the bar with Aberdeen’s Joe Lewis helpless. With a few quid as first scorer hoping to pay for Santa’s visit, the air turned blue around my vicinity as I cursed the Celtic Park woodwork.
It soon turned to celebration with a goal from a corner in the 7th minute. Jullien this time hit a left footed finish into the ground and it looped beyond Lewis and into the net. Happy days in my household as Christmas can stretch beyond an apple, orange and a fifty pence piece in this year’s Christmas stocking. A Dickensian yuletide avoided!
— Chris Jullien.. (@Chri6ViF) December 21, 2019
Odsonne Edouard had the next best chance from a Bolingoli cutback that looked goal bound. It was the heel of a Dons defender that saw the shot wide.
Anyone who thought I was excited should have seen the reaction of every Aberdeen fan in Scotland when against the run of the play The Dons equalised- Excitement in fact is an understatement-As the move that saw Cosgrove score the leveller was so unexpected the Granite City broke out in a mass celebration that would have put Neil Shipperley to shame (Google it folks- it’s topical).
Bolingoloi pulled out (back to Shipperley again) of an initial challenge in his left back role and the ball broke wide via Niall McGinn. Despite Scott Brown trying to cover Boli’s inefficiency the ex-Celtic winger’s superb cross reached Cosgrove at the back post who leaped higher than Ajer to head in a goal of Sutton or Hartson proportions to level the match at 1-1.
Edouard then had a brilliant penalty shout, or so we thought until it was clear the Aberdeen defender got the faintest of touches to divert the ball away. It was good refereeing under immense pressure, the like of which you rarely see elsewhere. Just saying.
There was also an earlier call for a foul on the edge of the box when Christie went through but looked to be fouled. Again the ref was right. No free kick and a clear attempt to gain an advantage in a dangerous position. This eagle eyed approach to officiating is a welcome addition to the game. I look forward to its consistent continuation-I won’t be holding my breath. The yellow card was fully justified.
Despite the crowd’s derision the referee had in the main got things right, as odd as it is, the standard of officiating continued into the second period.
The second half saw Celtic’s strength of character emerge while Aberdeen’s lack of guile and class was the mirror opposite.
Celtic won the game when the best move of the match resulted in the winning goal.
Kris Ajer broke from defence as he did throughout the game. Celtic’s centre half fed the ball into Edouard who in turn laid the ball into Christie’s path. The return ball saw French Eddy clear on goal. With a direct look into the eyes of Joe Lewis the Frenchman stroked the ball into the corner of the net. Celtic were 2-1 up and ready to turn the screw.
Then came the moment that changed the game and ended the Northern challenge.
Aberdeen’s Gallagher broke down the left side of Celtic’s defence. The imperious Ajer tackled brilliantly. What followed as the ball broke towards the touchline ended the game as a contest.
Aberdeen’s Cosgrove flew into a tackle and won the ball, as time stood still the referee paused then produced the red card. Cue protestations from Aberdeen that had only been matched until then by Celtic’s profligacy in front of goal.
The fact of the matter is Cosgrove got the ball but much like Hibs Ryan Porteous tackle on ‘the’ Rangers Barasic at Easter Road on Friday night, it was without doubt a red card tackle.
It ticked all the boxes. It was excessive in force, both feet were off the ground and it was fully out of control. In 1989 you may well have been able to justify it, in 2019 there is no justification whatsoever.
As Simon Donnelly said in his post-match summation, it was a reckless challenge and had Ajer’s leg been planted rather than fortuitously being off the ground it was a leg breaker.
I won’t go into Derek McInnes and his post-match defence of the assault. It’s embarrassing enough to have seen the reaction in the heat of battle of the Aberdeen bench without commenting on a man who should have been able to calmly surmise his striker as being without defence.
WATCH: ‘It’s not a red card. It’s a great tackle’
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes disputes the red card shown to Sam Cosgrove in the 2-1 loss to Celtic and says an appeal will be lodged pic.twitter.com/bf05oIax3g
— BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) December 21, 2019
With time to calm down and see the replays he should have responded with more class and professionalism but then again pressure mounts on Derek McInnes, who am I to judge?
I await the press response to mirror the fine performance of the referee today. I doubt we’ll see him officiate at Celtic Park for quite some time. He’s far too good at his job to risk a reoccurrence.
Today Celtic huffed and puffed when chances arose. The inefficiency in front of goal was only really a concern until Edouard netted the winner. That monkey off the back is not only for French Eddy it’s a stress lifted from his supporting cast.
Red all day long. pic.twitter.com/VlqDnLgGhX
— Kieran Caw (@Kieran_Celtic) December 21, 2019
Celtic are five points clear. Two more wins will see a minimum of an eight point advantage going into the winter break.
Even the last chance today when Jeremie Frimpong broke clear and hit the ball in the direction of Dalmarnock station didn’t take away from the fact that Celtic won a vitally important encounter as both Derek McInnes and Steven Gerrard felt the same exasperation I felt when Jullien’s first half attempt hit the bar.
All’s well that ends well fellow Celts. Christmas is near and we’re five points clear.
Oh and Christopher Jullien just covered the cost of balance bike for a five year old.
Merry Christmas y’all!
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