Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Celtic In The Brown Stuff

In Football on March 2, 2010 at 3:39 pm

A review of the recent Old Firm Game by Celtic fan Michael McGhee

Spirits were high in the blue end of Glasgow last night after Rangers won another thriller of a match against their fierce rivals Celtic, and in doing so cementing their place as favourites to pick up another league title. It’s another tough one to take for Tony Mowbray and his beleaguered stars who will now have to deal with the inevitable cry’s of “Sack the manager” from the high maintenance Celtic fans. The man in the hot seat at Parkhead didn’t receive a warm welcome from the fans on his arrival and has done little to change their minds since then, his ever inconsistent take on “total football” provides a rather mixed bag of results, something that is completely unacceptable when you are the manager of a club like Celtic. Consistency is the key to success, something he will have to realise soon or he will be out of a job come July. The the one thing that can save a struggling manager of an Old Firm side is wins over their rivals, something Mogga has failed to do in three attempts now.

Old Firm day in Glasgow is a wondrous and sometimes ugly occasion for anyone who isn’t accustomed to it. Everything that the fixture stands for comes out in otherwise normal people who, on any other day of the week, couldn’t care less what religion someone is, or what area they live in. For a stranger it may look like they have touched down in the middle of the Gaza strip but that’s what makes the match so special, something that elevates it beyond any other derby in the world. The history involved in the fixture – for the few that don’t already know about it – is so deep rooted in the society of Glaswegians that there is no escaping it, on Old Firm day, it rears is sometimes ugly head.

The game began with a venomous atmosphere thanks to a select few Celtic fans who clapped and jeered during a minutes silence for ex-Rangers keeper Garry Neef, it’s never good to see a select few idiots spoil it for the generally well behaved fans, and the news that further repercussions may come of it will not be welcomed by the Celtic board who are already in hot water over comments made about various referee’s. When the match finally kicked off it began at a frantic pace with each team trying to impose themselves as the dominant force early on. It’s always a horrible thing to watch from a neutrals perspective, but for the fans of each team every single ball won, and every crunching challenge is cheered like their team has just scored. The players are like soldiers giving themselves up for the cause, and when they are on the field no prisoners are taken. You only have to look at the sheer number of foreign players who couldn’t cut the mustard for either of the Old Firm simply because the derbies were too rough and tumble, it’s less of a football match and more of an all out brawl. When the football does begin – 20 minutes or so into the fixture – it’s played as such a pace many people find it hard to keep up, although the technical ability of the players may leave a lot to be desired the heart and drive that they show is second to none.

Celtic came close within a minute thanks to a terrible backpass from Sasa Papac but Keane fired a weak shot into the safe palms of Alan Macgregor. The Irishman was a late injury scare for the Celts but was named on the team sheet for the match without much hesitation by the manager, perhaps a sign of how desperate he is to get his first win over Rangers. He faired well during his first Old Firm game, two thundering challenges from Thompson wasn’t enough to put the lifelong Celtic man off as he ran his heart out for 90 minutes. He just didn’t receive the support he requires from midfield to make any real impact in the game, sometimes dropping back himself just to pick the ball up.

Bougherra managed to pick himself up a yellow card within six minutes thanks to an awful challenge on Keane, and would later get away with a string of challenges unpunished, much to the dismay of both Mowbray and the Celtic fans watching in the stands. Rangers had the ball in the Celtic net on the 26th minute, Maurice Edu scoring a screamer with his first touch of the ball after replacing the injured Lee McCulloch, but the referee had already blown his whistle for a hand ball by Kenny Miller. Minutes later Miller sent Boyd racing clear in the Celtic goal area with only Arthur Boruc to beat, but the big Pole stood tall to block the first shot and gathered the rebound in what was to be the first of many brilliant stops. It would then be Mcgregor to steal the show with a fantastic save from a Robbie Keane volley just inside the box on 40 minutes. The signs were good for Celtic going in at half time as they dominated play and controlled most of the possession, however it was Rangers who looked more dangerous in the final third of the pitch.

Rangers were almost ahead within seconds of the restard as Darren O’Dea made a last minute challenge on Kris Boyd before the striker could get his shot off. It proved the catalyst for a Rangers fightback as they began to dominate the play, only the on fire Arthur Boruc prevented them taking the lead in the 65th minute. A fine double save from Steven Davis showed that the Polish Keeper is back to his best after a torrid few months. It is a good sign for Celtic as the keeper had been vital to the success of Gordon Strachans side both domestically and on the continent yet failed to emulate his previous performances under Mowbray.

Aiden McGeady was replaced by Georgios Samaras in 68 minutes after failing to produce anything during the match, it will be a game to forget for the Irishman who continually fails to shine in the big matches. Moments after the change was made Celtic were a man down thanks to a moment of madness from their captain Scott Brown. After some tussling with Kyle Lafferty the pair seperated only for Brown to dive at the Rangers man head first, admittedly Lafferty went down easily – echoing the incident with Charlie Mulgrew last year which saw him banned for 3 matches by the SFA for improper conduct – but there was contact made, and the Celtic captain deserved an early bath for it. Mowbray had hoped that by gifting Brown the captaincy the talismanic midfielder would finally mature and learn to control his temper, something it clearly hasn’t done.

With Celtic a man down Rangers dominated proceedings, it was only matter of time before they scored as they constantly pressed, the ever present Arthur Boruc again saving Celtic with a great stop from the close range shot from Kris Boyd. He couldn’t keep the Gers out forever though as their moment of glory came in injury time, Celtic failed to clear a Thompson corner and the resulting scramble in the box saw Maurice Edu bundle the ball over the line to send the Gers fans into overdrive. It would prove to be the last kick of the ball as Walter Smith led celebrations just a week after turning 62, he now has the perfect gift as his team lead Celtic by 10 points with a game in hand. Although stranger things have happened the gap now seems unassailable for Mogga’s men as he must now be looking to the rebuilding job needed in the summer transfer window – should he make it that far.