The 2-2 Draw at Ibrox – Mitigating circumstances and honest mistakes on penalty calls

Celtic head into this weekend’s Glasgow Derby Viaplay League Cup final at Hampden in arguably our best form of the season. League wins over St Johnstone and Aberdeen – both with four goals scored, were sandwiched by a Scottish Cup fifth round tie in which the Hoops put five past St Mirren.

Meanwhile in the head-to-head meetings between the clubs this season Celtic have taken four out of six points against the Ibrox club, firstly with a 4-0 win at Celtic Park and then with a 2-2 draw at Ibrox. The latter result has of course given cause for optimism for the fans of theRangers and their mainstream media Micky Beale acolytes. Yet that drawn affair had Celtic able to claim mitigating circumstances.

The Hoops, in the days prior to the match, had to deal with a virus in the camp. And although Celtic – with as deep a squad as many of us will remember – were still able to field a strong team on paper, there was clearly a drop-off in Celtic’s habitual incessancy in that particular meeting.

Celtic did start strongly, however, as Ange Postecoglou stated post-match to SkySports , Celtic’s passing game dropped below the usual exemplary standard.

“We started really well and then we just lost control, mainly self-inflicted because of our passing. We made mistakes in areas of our passing that we don’t usually do and it allowed them into it and they got a bit of momentum, particularly with the crowd behind them.

“At the start of the second half, they took a football hold for 15 or 20 minutes. Again, a great spirit shown by the lads. It’s very easy on a day like this to resign yourself to a failure, but we haven’t done that all year or last year and we found a way.

“It’s a difficult place to come to. They threw everything at us, they knew how important the game was in the context of the league. For the most part, I thought we handled it OK. They’re human beings, not robots. It’s a big occasion, big game and I thought we tightened up in areas where our football is a lot more free-flowing and we didn’t do that today.”

After a slow start to the second half Celtic’s half-time lead from Daizen Maeda’s strike – ably and deliciously assisted by Alfredo Morelos – was cancelled out by two quick goals. One the customary controversial penalty, to ensure James Tavernier could claim his goal bonus, before Ryan Kent fired into the top corner after being picked out by Sakala, with the Celtic defence, and in particular debutant Alastair Johnston, being far too stand-offish and offering too much of the goal for Kent to aim for.

Celtic did however do us all proud. As despite many of the team no doubt being sapped of energy and having had their lead dissolve in the space of only two second half minutes, they recovered by way of three of the game’s substitutes involving themselves in hauling Celtic level. Aaron Mooy, Jota and Gorgios Giakoumakis were all involved in the build-up to Kyogo’s 88th minute leveller.

This time out Celtic will be more than ready to face theRangers, this time on neutral ground – if ever the headquarters of the SFA could be described in such a way – at Hampden.

Celtic have limited injury concerns and – touch wood – no sign of illness in the camp that would have impacted on energy levels at Ibrox, and the Hoops come into this one with multiple goals a habit and the concessions more limited than at any time under Ange Postecoglou.

Celtic appeared in the build-up to the game – and after the final whistle – to be unwilling to use illness within the squad as an excuse for dropping points at Ibrox. And whilst Postecoglou et al were right to not consider it an excuse, it is certainly a reason for such a drop off.

Yet cast your minds back to the start of that game and Celtic had theRangers chasing shadows in their own back yard, prior to and after scoring that first goal. They then found extra reserves to grab an equaliser when many would have been dead on their feet.

It’s therefore not too big a jump to conclude a Celtic side now back firing on all cylinders could and should have too much for the Ibrox side to cope with. Indeed, if theRangers were ever going to get anything from a game with Celtic then perhaps that was their opportunity missed.

Both teams appear on paper to be bang in form, with Micky Beale unbeaten as Ibrox boss and Celtic moving through the gears, with a view to peaking at the business end of the season, but there remains a gulf between these two teams – certainly in terms of strength in depth – and that is very much in Celtic’s favour.

For those of an Ibrox persuasion, that match at Ibrox will offer them encouragement. However, scratch the surface of that encounter and it was clear Celtic suffered for the effects a virus in the camp, yet still didn’t taste defeat.

Come Sunday afternoon and it will be a different story. This Celtic side is moving through the gears, they have a clean bill of health when compared to their visit to Ibrox, and they have a trophy they wish to defend.

It is all set up to be quite the cup-final, but it really should only end with green and white ribbons on the League Cup trophy. Indeed, you could argue theRangers have already had their chance to defeat Postecoglou’s Celtic, yet conspired to blow it, despite having almost everything in their favour. They are unlikely to be afforded a second chance.

Niall J


Don’t forget there’s some Friday Night Football under the lights this coming Friday when Fran Alonso’s title challenging Celtic side take on theRangers at the Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie with the match only open to Celtic supporters.  Celtic are a point ahead of theRangers at the moment and three behind Glasgow City who we play a week on Sunday, also over at Airdrie.  A win against theRangers takes Celtic to the top of the league and a win the following Sunday will really put Celtic in the driving seat for our first ever SWPL1 Title. Get along and support the team, for  full ticket details click below…COYGIG!

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As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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