Teenage Kicks, Diary of an Invincible season, part 5 – December 2016

Saturday 3 December 2016

After a fantastic performance in the League Cup final against Aberdeen, it looked as if Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic team had a Cup Final hangover. Louis Moult had the Steelmen one up with a sumptuous finish. Moult was causing Kolo Touré all sorts of problems and doubled Motherwell’s lead just after the half-hour mark. At the break, Brendan Rodgers changed his formation and went three at the back to give Celtic’s midfield more ballast. The comeback was on shortly after the interval, when Callum McGregor played an excellent one-two with Stuart Armstrong and stroked his shot past Craig Samson.

Motherwell were now under the cosh and Roberts had the Champions level with a header at the back post. Motherwell did however not give up and again went back in front through Lionel Ainsworth. I was totally bemused at what I was watching as again Celtic pulled it level swiftly after this with a terrific strike from Stuart Armstrong. After this the game settled down for a while until a minute from time. Rogic moved forward, picked his spot and smashed his shot past Samson to win this thrilling game. This game was one of my highlights of the season, the character displayed by all the players was immense and everybody in the ground certainly got value for money!

Tuesday 6 December 2016

The hoops last European tie of the season saw them travelling to the Etihad to take on Pep’s Manchester City side. The Etihad was silenced after five minutes with on-loan City winger Paddy Roberts putting the Celts one up. City however hit back almost immediately with Kelechi Iheanacho pulling the tie level.

Following these early goals, the game quietened down with chances coming for both Celtic and City. Though, the Sky Blues did not have a full-strength team out, there was still many stars included in the side with Sane, Gundogan and Nolito playing which made the result even more positive for the Scottish champions.

Friday 9 December 2016

It was back to league action at Firhill following an excellent draw away from home in the Champions League. For the most part of the first-half, the Jags were able to keep Celtic quiet. Before the break, Celtic did however take the lead through a Stuart Armstrong goal.

The game was completely put to bed with two quick fire goals from Armstrong and Griffiths. Thistle weren’t completely out the game and just after the hour mark they pulled a goal back with a Jamie Lindsay header. It all went a bit flat after this in the game with the Champions moving the ball the about well. Callum McGregor managed to get on the scoresheet before the game was over to complete an excellent win for Celtic.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

There isn’t really a lot that can be said about the visit of Hamilton to Celtic Park apart from the fact that Celtic picked up another three points to go eleven clear with two games in hand. The game was a hard watch with the Hoops not getting into any great rhythm with a lot of square balls being played. After Griffith’s goal in the thirty-sixth minute, the Champions stayed in second gear and knocked the ball around.

Saturday 17 December 2016

This game against Dundee will always be a special one for me, as it was the first time I ever wrote a match report. After numerous changes to the Celtic squad, the Hoops started the game of with controlled calm possession.

The first real chance of the game came in the tenth minute when a slick move into the box by Griffiths resulted in a quick one-two, only for Griffiths to then hit the post. Though eight minutes after this, Rogic missed a complete sitter from twelve yards with his shot being blasted over the crossbar.

Eventually the deadlock was broken when Celtic were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box after a shocking challenge from ex-hoops hero Darren O’Dea which should have saw red. The resulting free-kick was converted excellently by Leigh Griffiths. Ten minutes after the interval Celtic doubled their lead with a well-placed strike from Nir Bitton. The sixty-seventh light show was spoiled with Marcus Haber pulling a goal back for the Dee. Overall it was a game of two halves with complete Celtic domination in the first and scrappy play in the second half. What was important was that yet again Celtic had collected three points and were eleven points clear of Rangers.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

This home game against Patrick Thistle was very much so like the one played the week previous against Hamilton. The squad was again rotated with fringe players being given a chance in the side. From what I can remember it was absolutely freezing but a Scott Sinclair goal early on was all that was warming about this game. The lead at the top had been further extended. At the end of May, we will not remember this performance in isolation but will be appreciative of the way that Brendan Rodgers has transformed this side into grinding out performances to get the all important three points.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Twas the night before Christmas and the hoops were 14 points clear! The first of three did come in the fortieth minute, when Leigh Griffiths scored his seventh goal in his last five games against Hamilton after an exquisite pass from McGregor found the Celtic number nine. Stuart Armstrong kept up his inspiring form scoring a screamer from twenty-five yards which flew into the keeper’s top right-hand corner.

The game seemed after this to go like the Sky Sports coverage with not much happening. Celtic slowed the game down and cruised for the last twenty-five minutes. The hoops grabbed a third just before the end which secured all three points after Moussa Dembele tapped home a ball which was played across the face of goal. Another impressive performance by the Scottish Champions, which keeps us at the top of the table and unbeaten at Christmas.  Callum McGregor was sent off by Willie Collum for bumping into a player.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Ross County were the visitors to Celtic Park and after some scrappy play from both sides the breakthrough did eventually come for the Bhoys when Erik Sviatchenko scored an absolute screamer from thirty-five yards. The Celts then seemed to step it up a gear, playing some beautifully crafted football which caused the Staggies many problems. The lead was then doubled when Stuart Armstrong netted his ninth goal of the campaign. Intricate footwork in the box led to him shifting the ball onto his left foot to tuck the ball past the despondent Fox in the County goals. Overall, the game was widely open at times with opportunities for both sides. Though Celtic dominated most parts with the majority percent possession and amount of shots. They seem to be well prepared for the upcoming game against Rangers at Ibrox giving some much-needed game time to Scott Sinclair and James Forrest who have recently returned from injury

Saturday 31 December 2016

Before this game I had only visited Ibrox twice, seeing Celtic be beaten on both occasions. It looked as if my luck wasn’t going to change when Kenny Miller put the hosts one up early in the game. Celtic then managed to settle down and begun to put pressure on Rangers. Moussa Dembele was picked out after a corner into the box. He smashed the ball past Foderingham to silence Ibrox and send the free Broomloan into celebration. In the second-half, the Celts absolutely battered Rangers and deserved more goals with Rodgers saying that he was disappointed that it was only two. The winning goal came when a ball was stuck across the face of the Gers goal for Sinclair to tap it in. Celtic were heading into 2017 unbeaten and nineteen points clear at the top, with a game in hand. It certainly was a happy new year.

Declan McConville

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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